I Give Thanks For……..In 2014!
In January, I led the youth pitchers at Chuck Thacker’s Winter pitching clinic through their warm-up routines, for the 6th year in a row. This year, due to the amount of teaching and drills that the other coaches want to run the pitchers through, my time with the athletes was reduced by five minutes. Five minutes probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but in the context of exercise, it seems to pass in the blink of the eye. It just meant that I had to be on my “A” game and I had to focus on the essentials. There was no time to waste, and I wanted to make sure the full body was addressed in the mobility/warm-up session, especially the upper back/shoulders and hips. I believe the following progression of exercises, did just that.
1) Overhead Arm Slides w/ Big Exhale x 5 reps
2) Knee Hug (cook) Hip Raises x 10 reps each leg
3) Side Lying Upper Back Rotation x 10 reps each side
Hand and Knees/Feet:
4) Cat/Camel w/ Neck Rotations x 5 reps/5 reps ea side
5) Kneeling Rock Backs x 10 reps
6) Yoga Push-Ups x 10 reps
7) Spiderman Climb x 5 reps ea side
8) Deep Squats x 10 reps
9) Hip Hinges x 10 reps
10) Skater Hops x 5 hops ea side (stick the landing)
11) Pogo Hops x 20 hops
12) 10 yard Sprints x 4 reps
January also brought big change. I chose to leave the YMCA after 11 years of working there. With the addition of a new supervisor in the fitness center, I was given the choice of giving up my fitness studio and staying, or leaving. Needless to say, I chose to leave and keep my studio. It felt like a very scary decision at first, especially since the YMCA is the largest fitness facility in Ashland, but it has proven to be a great choice. I have been busier than ever, and I am in full control of my prices, fitness offerings, and destiny. You can still find me at Ashland Anytime Fitness and my studio.
In February, I made a decision that I would focus on maximal strength and power training over the course of the year. After many years of focused endurance training, I welcomed a new physical challenge. I ran myself through a personal powerlifting meet to see where my strength levels were. My starting strength levels, especially in the squat, were mediocre at best. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me if I was going to get strong. Read about the benefits of maximal strength and power training here. Here’s a hint, it’s not just for high school and college athletes.
In March, I took a spring break trip to Tucson, AZ with my father and kids. It was a nice change of pace to feel the warmth of 80 degree temperatures and lots of sunshine, allowing to increase my vitamin D. The resort we stayed at had a playground, and I knew it would be a great place to perform some MovNat style workouts. The great thing about natural movement workouts, is that they don’t require a lot of equipment, and a playground is often a fantastic place to engage in movement, no matter what your age. Try the following MovNat beginner workout, to get a taste of what natural movement workouts are all about.
3 Rounds of:
Walking Lunges x 10 steps
Deep Knee Bends x 10 reps
Foot Hand Crawl x 15 feet
Rotational Throw x 3 sets x 20 reps x 20 pound object
4 Rounds of:
Foot hand Crawl x 20 feet
Vertical Jump x 10 jumps x 12 inches
Push Press x 10 reps x 15 lbs
In April, I held my second personal powerlifting meet. I was really curious where my maximum strength was at after a couple of months of heavy strength training, and the best way to check it was to test it. After many years of concentrated endurance training, it has been refreshing to focus on strength again. After testing where my strength levels were in February, I started a training program that centered around heavy weight lifting. It was simple and effective. I increased my squat by 30 lbs, my bench press by 5 lbs, and my deadlift by 30 lbs. Check out my blog post for the workout details.
In May, I attended the NSCA Oregon State Clinic. It had a fantastic line up of speakers which included Jim Radcliffe, University of Oregon’s Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Michael Conroy from USA Weightlifting, Patrick Ward who worked for the Nike research lab and Canada basketball (I believe he is now working for the Seattle Seahawks), and Bradford Scott, the director of athletic performance for the Portland Pilots. I think the most applicable part for my clients came out of Patrick Ward’s presentation. He presented on data collection and application. What does it mean for you and I? I believe keeping a health journal can be a powerful thing. Some things to note in the journal include workouts, sleep quality, resting heart rate or HRV, and food intake. You can keep a handwritten journal, or there are online applications that can be of use for tracking these things. By collecting data, you can figure out what works, and what doesn’t. You can follow this link for the full post about the clinic. Before the month was up, my son and I competed in the Heart of the Valley triathlon held in Corvallis. Leading up to this race, my training was minimal at best. Have you ever competed on guts alone? I felt fatigued from the start, but I pushed through, and gutted it out. My son kicked my butt for the first time in a triathlon, and he had a great race. Even though I wasn’t able to perform well, at the very least, a race like this will build mental toughness.
In June, I started my fifth year of providing workouts for the SOU volleyball team. Summer workouts are the time when we can really make progress in speed, strength, and power. The team worked exceptionally hard this summer and they have had a very successful season. In fact, it has been so good, that they are headed to Iowa to play in the NAIA national tournament. Go Raiders! In this same month, I also organized a youth speed and agility training camp, that ran into July. The camp focused on speed mechanics, acceleration, and agility drills. Consistent training, even for only 6 weeks (12 workouts), resulted in some significant improvements. At the end of the month, I joined a few friends at the local all-comers track meet. One of my friends labeled us as the “golden oldies”, since most of the competitors were kids. I decided to do something different, and instead of competing in distance events, I went with the sprints (100M and 200M). It reignited my passion for sprinting and stoked my competitive fires. Here is a sample from the training plan I followed over a few weeks, leading up to an Oregon Track Club all comers track meet in Eugene. It can be found in the NSCA’s book titled, “Developing Speed.”
Bounds: 4-6 reps x 40M
Acceleration from a 3 point start: 5-6 x 20M
On Grass Runs: 6-7 x 100M at 70% effort (A series of runs focusing on relaxing at speed with less impact on grass)
Cross Training: Bike or Swim (at least, that’s what i did), or any other sport
Basic Drills: Standing Arm Swing, Ankling, Marching A, Wall Drive (single exchange), step-overs
Acceleration Speed from Standing: 4-5 x 40M
Cross Training: Bike or Swim, or any other sport
Speed Endurance: 3 x 200M at 85% of maximal speed and 3 minutes between reps
You can read more about speed training here. I decreased my time in the 200M by almost 4 seconds, and increased my long jump by about a foot, with a few weeks of solid training.
In July, I kicked off the month by running in the Ashland 4th of July run. As I mentioned earlier, I had not been doing much endurance training, and my sprint training wasn’t sufficient to get me through a 10K with a competitive time. My time was just over two minutes slower than my previous slowest time, and I set a PW (personal worst). You can read more about the debacle here. I also competed in the Big Al’s Tennis Tournament, which I had won a few times in the past in a low division (singles and doubles). I moved up to a higher level, and with lack of court time over the year, I couldn’t shake off the rust. However, I love to compete and I believe some competition is good for all of us. You can read about that here.
In August, I started the month off with a trip up north to Bend, to meet up with my old college pals. We hiked, swam, ran, and stand up paddle boarded, which was a total blast. It’s awesome to get together with friends who enjoy living a healthy and active lifestyle. We don’t see exercise as a chore, but as a chance to build strong relationships, breathe fresh air, soak up sunshine, and capture a rush of endorphins. I hope all people will build a healthy relationship with exercise and look to engage in it everyday. I’m not talking about beating yourself up and pushing your limits everyday, but just being active. Some days can be intense and other days can be easier, to promote recovery. It’s also a good idea to engage in many different activities to keep your interest level high, and overuse injuries at bay. I think this is also a great place to mention the whole sports specialization issue with youth athletes. Research appears to show that elite athletes were more likely to have played many different sports in their youth, and only start to specialize in one sport when they are in their teens. This helped them to avoid overuse injuries and burnout. In the book, “Faster, Higher, Stronger”, author Mark McClusky found that 23% of the athletes who competed in the Junior Worlds, went on to medal in the Olympics. That is impressive, but it means that 70% of athletes who didn’t make it to the Junior World finals, went on to compete and win at the Olympics. I also think it’s important to let a kid be a kid and have some play time. They are probably more likely to have a healthy relationship with sports and exercise when they are older, just like my friends and I.
In September, I started up another youth sports training group. This time we focused on preparing for the upcoming basketball season. A typical session included a dynamic warm-up, speed ladder work, plyometrics, skill work (dribbling, passing, shooting, etc.), agility, and core strength. The athletes improved their long jump by an average of 7 inches, reduced their three quarter court sprint time by .05 seconds, and increased their push-ups by 6 reps. Along with the basketball conditoning class, I added group strength training. The workouts emphasized learning proper technique in squatting, hip hinging, pressing, and rowing. The kids made great progress in form and strength over the 8 weeks. I have really enjoyed working with the youth athletes and I believe I have found my niche.
In October, the big highlight for me, was to lead the kindergartners through 2nd graders at my daughter’s school, on a Halloween fun run (it actually was more of a walk). I was dressed up as Batman, one of my favorite comic book characters. I was more than happy to help out, and get kids excited about being active. In the workout department, I started to follow the Mass Made Simple program by Dan John. The secret ingredient for building mass you ask? High repetition squats. Here is one sample of a workout from the beginning of the program.
Bench Press- 5 sets x 5 reps, ascending weights to find a comfortable weight as your starting point
Bat Wings- 2 sets x 10 seconds
One Arm Overhead Press- Work the weight up with sets of 5 reps to a weight that is challenging, but doesn’t kill you.
Bird-Dog- 2 sets x 10 reps ea side
Complex- Row, Clean, Front Squat, Overhead Press, Back Squat, Good Morning with a barbell and no rest between exercises 3 sets x 3 reps of each exercise
High Repetition Back Squats- 1 sets x 30 reps x 95 lbs……go empty bar if you aren’t as strong in the squat
It tested me both mentally and physically. I ended up gaining ten pounds and definitely building some strength, but I consumed a lot more calories during the program and my body fat went up. I also had a chance to experiment with Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program. To put it simply, it’s a powerlifting program. I followed a 4 day per week training split. The main lift for Monday was Overhead Press, Tuesday was dedicated to squats, Thursday was bench press day, and Friday was reserved for deadlifts. The sets were based on a percentage of your 1 rep max for each lift. It started with 5 rep sets the first week, 3 rep sets the second week, and 5/3/1 sets on the third week. The fourth week is a recovery week and consists of sets of 5 reps done at a light weight.
Now we are about to wrap up November, and there are some changes on the horizon. In the new year, I will be no longer managing races as a part of Rogue Valley Race Group, which will allow me to dedicate more time to my fitness business. I have not been able to get away to attend many continuing education fitness seminars. I should have more time for this in the new year. I also hope to move into a larger facility at some point, to have the ability to train larger groups. Overall, it has been a great year and I am very thankful for all that I have experienced, and all the people I have gotten to work with. I hope you have had a great year so far. We have just one month left in the year, let’s finish strong!