Archive by Author

My First Strongman Competition

28 Aug

I’ll admit it. When I was staring at this huge tractor tire weighing 650 pounds, I was intimidated.

Why? Because it was 250 pounds heavier than any tire I had ever moved. And I had to somehow flip this thing end-over-end to a finish line 80 feet away while a judge stood right next to me with a stopwatch in his hand. I could hear my wife and friends cheering from the sideline and feel the stares of the other competitors.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “so this is what a strongman competition is like.“

Strongman is a sport with a very simple purpose. Get people together and see who is the strongest by making them lift heavy objects off the ground, put things overhead, and carry them across some distance as fast as possible.

And that was my task last Saturday in Reno for the Northern Nevada’s Strongest Man competition. I competed in five events. Each simple in their task. And each remarkably demanding both mentally and physically. I flipped a 650 pound tire, deadlifted 565 pounds, pulled a Ford F-550 weighing 8,000 pounds, pressed a log (yes, a log) overhead, and threw a 180 pound atlas stone over a four foot high bar more times than I remember.

As amazing as it was to compete, it was a thrill to also witness men and women of all shapes and sizes, college grads to forty-something year-old moms, lay it out there in each event. All of us competitors were spurned onward by the small, but very supportive crowd.

It was a grueling day in the late summer sun, but I somehow found myself in first place in my division at the end of the competition. For my efforts, I was handsomely rewarded with a full-size sword. Yes, a sword. No medal. No plaque. Just a sword.

I had such a great time, I’m hoping to compete again in October. This time, maybe I’ll have a chance to win a giant ax.

What I (vicariously) learned from Jordyn Weiber

21 Aug

I don’t know about you, but I’m going through serious Olympic-withdrawal. For two weeks the Olympics were my constant companion. And now, they are gone. All I have left are memories…

Among the array of memorable moments, one of the greatest story lines of the competition was Jordyn Weiber’s performance during the team all-around finals.

Entering the competition as the gold-medal favorite, Jordyn Weiber made several uncharacteristic falters and balance checks in her performances during the qualifying rounds causing her to narrowly miss the cut for the individual all-around finals. Upon seeing her final scores, the camera fixated on the tears streaming down her face as she realized she would not be competing in the individual finals.

Shocking as it was to everyone, consider Jordyn’s response. Instead of falling apart, she put on a rock-solid performance in the team finals only two days later. She nailed every one of her routines with confidence and grace, icing the gold medal for the US team with her floor routine.

I was amazed and inspired by her show of poise and resiliency in the face of adversity and disappointment. And I (re)learned a few things from Jordyn about how each of us can respond well in the face of adversity.

First, the profound ability to focus. We are bombarded with distractions that threaten to knock us off track all the time. Maybe it’s something someone said at work or that pesky voice in your head that begins to second-guess yourself. “Can I really achieve what I’ve set out to do,” it asks.  Yes, you can. Great things can happen when we are able to filter out the distractions and maintain a steadfast focus on doing the hard work necessary to achieve our goals.

Second, the ability to leave the past behind. No one would have been surprised if Jordyn had a mediocre performance in the team finals. But instead of letting her past define her future performance, she let go of the disappointment and excelled. This is a profound insight. How many times have I stopped short of reaching my goals simply because I had failed in the past? Perhaps too many times to admit. But great things can happen when we refuse to let our past define and shape our future goals.

And finally,  a refusal to settle. Jordyn’s performance is inspiring because she refused to settle for anything less than what she was capable of achieving. Great things can happen when we refuse to settle for anything less than our greatest potential.

We love sport competitions because, in some ways, they are a proxy for life. The athletes’ journeys are in some ways microcosms of our own. As such, I hope you will be as inspired to continue moving forward with focus, a refusal to settle, and leave the past behind, just as I am.

“Street Cred”: Tracey’s Story

7 Aug

This is a follow-up post to last week’s post on women in healthcare. Tracey is very candid in sharing her perspective. 

Fifteen years ago, while living abroad and having learned that with my professional credential as a certified athletic trainer I could not work in sport at the level I desired, I turned to personal training and individual fitness as a job for which I was qualified.  I was 24 years old, I slept on average 4-5 hours/night, drank, smoked and paid little attention to nutrition.  Although I was knowledgeable, I was not credible in my humble opinion.

I moved to California, got reacquainted with my former athletic self and began taking better care of myself.  Although I was walking the walk as ‘they’ say, my clients still objected about my credibility in that I was single, didn’t have the responsibilities of children, was young . . .you name it.

At 26, I found myself between opportunities and through equal parts ignorance, bravado and good fortune, founded a fitness facility with one of my best friends/former co-workers with whom my training philosophies were well aligned.  My responsibilities had grown, now in addition to working, commuting and maintaining some semblance of a social life, I had a business to run and employees to manage but still the objections were ever present . . .‘yea, but your single, you don’t have to worry about cooking for anyone other than yourself.’ or ‘you don’t have kids so you can work out whenever you want.’

In the ensuing 3 years all that changed but then again, it didn’t.  In my 29th year, I got engaged to my best friend who I mentioned earlier was also my business partner, completed an ironman triathlon and was diagnosed with cancer.  Suddenly, I was almost too credible.  Throw on the 2 children that followed and my street cred was through the roof, and yet . . .

I do, and have always, been responsible for the financial management of our business which has thrived for the past 12 years and has weathered some challenging economic times.  I co-founded FIT when I was 26 years old and single.  I am passionate about what I do, have lived it and continue to learn and grow as a professional.  And yet . . .

Ever since I married my business partner, the assumption that is made almost, if not all of the time, is that it was my husband’s business that I joined, that it was his passion that we pursued.  I’m unsure if this is the result of a larger bias related to female business owners or if it’s specific to the fitness industry but would guess that neither works to my advantage in establishing my professional credibility independent of my husband.

Women can, do and should play an important role in health care and health promotion.  Inherently, we offer a different perspective and insight than our male counterparts.  While I disagree with all the individuals who claimed that I lacked credibility because I had not lived it and disagree with woman who insists that a male trainer cannot work with them as effectively as a female trainer simply because they don’t know what it’s like to be a woman, I do think, generally speaking, that the compassion and insight professional women in this industry have to offer earns us a seat at the table.

Joel Black Conquers “Death Ride”

2 Aug

You may have seen him in the corner, pedaling furiously on the Watt Bike for what seemed like an eternity. And if you asked Joel what on earth he was doing, he would humbly respond, “Training.”

This year was Joel’s year. Despite difficulties in the past, this year Joel was going to complete the infamous California Death Ride.

I got a chance to ask Joel a few questions about his experience. Here’s what he had to say.

What was your motivation for taking on this challenge?

In broad terms, cycling is a hobby for me, and I’m a sucker for ridiculous dares: when I saw that there was a challenging cycling event called the “Death Ride”, I couldn’t resist. I mean, what’s a better name for a ridiculous dare than “Death Ride?” Who wouldn’t sign up for THAT? ;-)

More specifically: I tried this ride in 2009, and didn’t complete it. The Death Ride consists of five mountain-pass climbs over 129 miles, and the first time I tried it, I only completed the first 3 passes. I wasn’t happy about that, and I wasn’t going to be satisfied until I rode all five passes. However, I’m something of a workaholic, and in 2010 and 2011, I was too absorbed in my job to train sufficiently. This year, I decided I had to go for it–I didn’t like it hanging over my head–so I made it my number one personal goal for the year.

How would you describe how grueling the ride was?

Well, I should start by saying that I’m not a particularly strong hill-climber, and the Death Ride is a climbing event. So it’s an especially tough ride for me by definition–which adds to the silliness of the dare.

Anyway, the way the course is laid out means that, for the first four passes, riders spend their time either climbing or descending. There’s very little flat, and it’s not a matter of many little hills, it’s all about climbing at perhaps 7-8% grade for 10 miles at a time (see the course here: http://www.deathride.com/elemap.html). I suppose an indication of the difficulty is that the riders tend to be quiet. In contrast to an event like the AMBBR 100-miler (incredibly fun ride in Tahoe each June), where people are chatting as they ride along, in the Death Ride, much of the time everyone is just heads-down, silently pushing their gears. It’s a little eerie, especially in the early morning.

For most riders, the first four passes take up the morning. In early afternoon you drop down into the river basin and ride about 20 miles of rollies before you start the last climb, which is also the longest in terms of distance. Because it’s afternoon, it’s hot, and since you’re not on mountain roads, there’s not much shade, and it’s typically a bit windy, and of course you’ve been riding for awhile, so you’re tired. All of that makes the last pass pretty tough. I saw a few riders still looking fresh and strong by that point, but most of us were just slogging our way to the finish.

In retrospect, I came to think of the first four passes as a fun and difficult challenge. Like a very strong opponent in a sporting contest–the first four passes made you earn every point, played hard, but played fair. And then the last pass came along, and the ride became a surly opponent who is going to try to take the fun out of your victory. That last 50 mile stretch is just a suffer-fest. ;-)

Any fun aspects to the ride?

#1 The descents are incredible. Unlike the local climbs which involve a lot of tight blind turns that can make descending treacherous, these descents are on wide closed roads, and they last 10 miles of steep! 50 mph is easy to achieve, and not hard to control. The descents are almost worth the climbs!

#2 The first climb is from Markleeville up to Monitor Pass. From there, in the morning sun, you can look down to the east to highway 395 and Nevada. That view from the top, combined with the feeling that you climbed there under your own power, is tremendous.
How did you change your training to learn from your previous experiences?

#1 During my training in 2009, I used one brand of electrolyte drink, but then changed to another just before the event. During the event, the new drink made me nauseous, so I didn’t drink, and unsurprisingly I suffered extreme cramps in my quads, and had to stop at the top of the third pass. I believe that was my biggest mistake. This time, I tried different drinks and foods early on, then settled on what felt right and didn’t change a thing.

#2 I rode more hills. ;-) I kept working on hills until I could ride 7-8% grades without continuously thinking about getting to the top. Instead of thinking of a hill as a short pain to conquer as quickly as possible, I tried to get to the point that hills were just like flats, except that for some bizarre reason you had to push harder than normal. And you just had to keep pedaling.

How did your training at FIT help you?

FIT training helped in at least two ways:
#1 Thom and Scott like to create workouts for me that I’d really rather not do. If I was working on my own, I wouldn’t work that hard. And then they keep me laughing at myself, and keep challenging me, which has helped with the “just keep going no matter what”.

#2 As you know, I started training in earnest for the Death Ride in March…and purely by coincidence in March I tore a biceps tendon and had to have a surgical repair. Problem with that was that my doctor wouldn’t allow me to ride my bike for the first 5 weeks after surgery. Given the timing, that threatened to be a disaster! Happily, Thom offered to let me use the WattBikes as much as I wanted, and loaned me some good workout DVDs to ride along with. So that’s how I spent April, my arm in a brace stuffed with towels to soak up the sweat, riding WattBikes at FIT. It’s not the same as real riding, but I think it saved my bacon. I’d thank Thom, but it might make him think I wanted to ride more workouts on the WattBikes, and I don’t like to give him any ideas…

What are your goals moving forward? 

Back in the Pleistocene era, I used to run 10ks and duathalons fairly often. Just an age-grouper, but I always enjoyed those events. I let that level of fitness get away from me because I worked too much, but I’ve been sort of hoping to start running again, and resume events like those. And as a stretch goal (it’s a stretch because I swim like a rock), I’ve started working on swimming…and maybe someday I’ll do some triathlons.

What would be your advice to anyone considering taking on an endurance challenge?

Shoot…I don’t know anything about training for endurance challenges, but if you want to train for ridiculous dares:
#1: Don’t just blindly “work out a lot,” rather make a plan that relates clearly to your goal. Think about how achieving your _training_ goals is preparing you to achieve that _event_ goal.
#2: Keep in mind how important psychology is, in addition to physiology. Keep track of your progress, and build your store of confidence by recognizing your achievements during training. You’ll need that confidence during the event.
#3: Remember that if you don’t succeed the first time, you’re just going to have to do it all again ’til you do succeed…so you might as well give it your best effort that first time!

Wise words, Joel. You’re an inspiration to us all.

 

Looking Closer at Habits – Part 4

31 Jul

In our last post, we looked at the Golden Rule of habit change, according to Duhigg. If you can identify the cues and rewards of a habit loop, you can change the routine.

That is the case most of the time. But for some habits there’s one additional, necessary ingredient.

Belief.

To illustrate, Duhigg points to the dynamics of habit change for members of Alcoholics Anonymous. What is it that makes participation in this group such an incredibly successful path to habit change, Duhigg asks.

Summarizing the findings of a group of researchers, Duhigg is worth quoting at length. “It was belief itself that made a difference. Once people learned how to believe in something, that skill started spilling over to other parts of their lives, until they started believing they could change. Belief was the ingredient that made a reworked habit loop into a permanent behavior” (Duhigg, 85).

In short, you need the capacity to believe that things can get better.

When you’re surrounded by people that are walking proof that there is a path to change, it may be easier to believe that things can get better. And therein in lies the power of group dynamics. Even if you don’t believe that you can make a permanent change to your habit patterns, a group has the power to, at times, believe for you or, at the very least, cause you to suspend your disbelief until you actually internalize it.

So how do we practice this? Sometimes the hardest part of changing habits and changing our lives for the better is firmly grabbing ahold of a belief in ourselves and the people around us that change can happen.

At FIT, our goal is to create an environment where we, as trainers, are genuinely optimistic that everyone that walks through our day and commits to their program can experience positive change. And the great thing is that FIT has lots of people that have been training with us for years and are walking proof that progress is possible.

So if even if you’re doubting, tell someone at FIT about the health habits you want to create. We can help you find the resources, the support, and maybe even the belief to make permanent changes.

FIT Says Farewell to Nathan “Bear” Schadle

27 Jul

After our final CrossFit class on Wednesday night, and it was time to lock up, Nathan sat on the bench in the weightlifting area slowly putting away his weightlifting shoes for the last time until Thanksgiving.

“Bear,” as he is affectionately known by the other weightlifters at Barbell Club, graduated  from high school in June and is leaving this week to begin a new chapter in his life at Colorado State University, Colorado Springs.

Why Colorado Springs? Because it’s home to the United States Olympic Training Center.

Let’s back up the story a bit. When Bear first walked in to FIT (back then, he was just “Nathan”) five years ago, he was a scrawny, awkward 12 year-old. Bear had played several sports, but had yet to really find that thing that he loved to do, the thing he could really be good at.

Fortunately for Bear, Rob was glad to have a new, eager member of FIT’s Barbell Club. And fortunately for Rob, Bear was eager to learn and master the snatch and clean and jerk.

Over five years, Nathan transformed into “Bear,” his alter-ego. Bear went from learning how to snatch, clean, and jerk with just a training bar to snatching 110kg and clean and jerking 145kg at at the Junior National Championships. Bear went from learning body weight squats, to squatting 100kg on his 14th birthday, to squatting 200kg on his 18th birthday.

That is what Rob likes to smugly call “decent progress.”

Bear’s tenacity, commitment, and passion to keep pushing the limits has earned him an opportunity to train part-time at the Olympic Training Center with the best coaches, lifters, and resources in the country. The best part is that bear will be able to go to school full time and embrace a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow as a person, not just as an athlete.

Barbell Club will not be the same without Bear, but Rob and the entire staff at FIT wish Bear much success in his adventure in school and weightlifting.

Bear, you will truly be missed.

Looking Closer At Habits – Part 3

19 Jul

When it comes to altering habits, researchers and millions of people know that there is a golden rule:

You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.

The habit loop–cue, routine, reward–can be reprogrammed, but we have to be deliberate about it. However, it is likely that most of us know we have habits that we want to change, but we aren’t fully aware of the cravings that drive our behaviors.

Let’s imagine that I had a job that required long stints of time during the day working at a computer on my desk. At various points throughout the work day (usually late mornings and late afternoons), I would find myself wandering to the break room to snack on the tasty treats that my benevolent co-worker decided to share with us.

Grabbing a snack, I took advantage of chatting with my co-worker about the ball game from last night. Then, after a few minutes, feeling satisfied, I made my way back to my desk.

Now, let us dissect the situation. If I took the time to really take an inventory of what may be driving my craving for a sugary snack in the break room, my motives might be less related to hunger and more related to just sheer boredom. (Remember, this is just a hypothetical)

When I finally realize that the sugary snacks are doing more harm than good, I decide I need to do something about my habit.

But, remember the golden rule: I can’t extinguish my habit. I can only change it.

How? Here’s the key, according to Duhigg.

Identify the cue. Keep the same reward. But insert a new routine.

Here’s what he means. Imagine it’s really a sense of boredom and desire for interaction that’s really the thing driving my craving to leave my desk and head to the break room. The cue is my boredom. The reward is my satisfaction with the brief release from work.

So, to shift my habit, I try a few new routines. The next time I feel bored at my desk, instead of heading straight to the break room, I get up and take a 5 minute stroll outside or maybe I allot myself 5 minutes on the internet to read up on last night’s game on espn.com.

Driven by the same cue, receiving the same reward (satisfying my boredom) does not have to involve indulging daily in sugary snacks.

This all sounds so easy, I know. But believe, the brain can actually be reprogrammed. We just need to know where to start.

My advice?

Step 1: I would start by identifying the habits you wish to change. And then take a serious inventory of when you experience the cravings to satisfy those habits. This will take us one step closer to changing our habits.

 

What’s Step 2? Stay tuned to find out.

USPLA North American Championship Meet Update

17 Jul

Before I (Greg L) walked on to the platform, I chalked my sweaty hands at the bowl. Normally, you don’t need to chalk your hands before a back squat. But this wasn’t just another rep. This was going to be the heaviest weight I’d ever been under.

467.5 pounds.

My adrenaline was racing. The music blaring. Spectators and fellow competitors alike watched closely as I stepped under the bar.

In some of the more surreal moments of my life, time seems to slow down. Everything goes silent. And for a brief moment, my vision funnels down to a singular point of focus.

This was one of those moments. I couldn’t hear my wife or coaches yelling. I didn’t see the spectators or even the head judge sitting only a few feet in front of me making sure my movement met his standards. I could only see the grey and black banner hanging from the ceiling across the room.

I squeezed every single muscle in my body. I fought hard against the enormous weight on my back that was trying to bring me down. And after what seemed like an eternity, I eeked my way through the sticking point to reach the top.

This is the nature of powerlifting. These are the kinds of moments you expect in a meet. And these are the kinds of experiences you have to embrace.

My meet last Saturday was a memorable one. I set a new PR in my squat. I set a new competition PR in the bench press at 308 pounds. Finally, at the end of what was an incredibly physically and emotionally draining day, I hit a new competition PR in the deadlift at 561 pounds.

I also set a PR for my total weight lifted in competition with 1336 pounds–the combination of my highest squat, bench press, and deadlifts.

But what I will relish in most is the sensation of overcoming the “weighty” adversity that day which came in the form of a barbell sitting on my back.

This is why I compete. It helps remind me that I’m strong, that I’m confident. But it also reminds me that I’m human. And being human, I have my limitations.

And there are times when you willingly rush up against those limitations, that you feel the most alive.

FIT’s Rick Fath Wins Bridge to Bridge 10K Swim

12 Jul

When Rick emerged from the frigid Bay water at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, he had a giant smile on his face. With a time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Rick was the first swimmer to finish the Bridge to Bridge 10k swim last Saturday.

“I swallowed a lot of salt water,” Rick recalls, “But it felt really good to finish. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you fulfill a commitment.”

Rick has been open-water swimming for 12 years and is no stranger to races in through the Bay. In fact, he got started when, years ago, a friend “invited” Rick to do a group swim around Alcatraz. Once Rick got his ‘feet wet’ (pun intended) he began swimming in two to three events a year, including regular trips swimming across the Golden Gate Bridge.

When asked why he enjoys racing, Rick explained, “It keeps me focused and gives me a goal.” Each January Rick looks at his calendar and commits to a few races each year. These races help Rick plan and maintain his training regimen both in the pool and here in the gym at FIT.

For Rick, racing in these events each year is just part of his strategy to staying active and healthy. And who could question the activity level of someone whose swim workouts involve a brisk two or three mile swim? To put that in context (for us non-swimmers), that’s 100 hundred laps in the pool!

Now that may sound daunting even to the most committed weekend warrior, but Rick understands the heart of the matter: “The key is to set a goal. And then to create a plan.” For example, Rick printed swim workouts from a reliable source in order to ramp up for this long swim.

Have a plan. Wise words, indeed.

Moving forward, Rick intends to maintain a similar pattern of competing in two or three races each year, maybe travelling to other locations to race. “I’m always looking for new and fun experiences,” Rick says.

So here’s to you, Rick. Thank you for representing FIT well in the gym and in the water.

FIT Barbell Club Takes Over Redwood Open

10 Jul

Last Saturday, FIT’s Olympic Weightlifting Club sent four members to compete in the Redwood Open osted by Freddie Myles of Myles Ahead Weightlifting Club.

This meet was hosted in a unique venue, a gazebo in the Cotati town square. This set the stage for a very casual, fun environment for families and friends to spend a day cheering on the lifters in the sunshine.

Among the many highlights of the meet, FIT BBC’s newest member, Jen Larson, competed in her first ever Olympic weightlifting meet. Jen was able to successfully complete all six of her lifts. She matched her personal bests in both the snatch and the clean and jerk, totaling 105 kg combined to take 2nd place in the 58kg division.

Mary Wang, a veteran of the FIT BBC, also competed in the 58kg weight class and finished with a snatch of 55kg and a clean and jerk of 68kg, finishing with a total of 123kg to take first place.

Fellow newcomer Nick Steinhillber competed in his second weightlifting meet in the 94kg class. Nick got off to a great start, snatching a new personal best 100kg. He continued strong to clean and jerk 130kg, totaling 230kg for a 2nd place finish.

Then, FIT BBC veteran nathan “Bear” Schadle capped off a long day of competition with a spectacular performance. Bear, weighing 105kg, snatched a staggering 118kg for a new personal best.

Bear nearly followed this up with another PR in the clean and jerk were it not for narrowly missing 147kg. Still, his performance was good enough for another FIT 2nd place finish.

It was a gread day of sun, heavy lifting, and camaraderie. Coach Rob demonstrated his skilled expertise in coaching all the lifters from the morning into the late evening.

If you’re interested in learning the Olympic lifts and training in a team-oriented environment, contact Rob abot FIT’s Barbell Club!

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