Dan John keeps it simple and realistic in his recent article for Men's Health.
The key to goal setting: "Inch by inch, it's a cinch. Yard by yard, it is hard."
I have a goal for you. Oh, not for this January or even this next year. On January 1, 2015, I want you to weigh one pound less than you do today. That's my goal for you.
Now, if you have to fast from Thanksgiving 2014 until New Year's Day, 2015, I am fine with that challenge. If you have to sit in a sauna in plastic all New Year’s, I am comfortable with that, too.
Wait? What do I hear? Is it scoffing and coughing about our next New Year's Feast, too little work for this man, this beast? (Hats off to Dr. Seuss here.) If you do the math and can remember that one pound is 3500 calories, you only need to cut nine calories out of your daily intake each day!
There is a sassy soft drink that advertises itself with "Just One Calorie!" If you are drinking 18 of them a day NOW, simply cut back to nine a day for the next year and, POOF, your pound will be gone!
That's all I am asking: one pound less next year.
During my annual check up, my doctor shared with me some insights about longevity. Now, he famously told me years ago that to survive from 25 to 55, statistically, one had to only follow three rules:
1. Don't smoke.
2. Wear your seatbelt—and a helmet when appropriate.
3. Learn to fall.
The other day, he shared three insights that allow you to live a long life and, ideally, drop dead (think about that):
1. Don't weigh over 300 pounds.
2. Walk or exercise a half an hour a day.
3. Eat a Mediterranean diet (gets some colorful veggies in there!).
I can bet that you have nodded your head through both lists. It's all so simple. It's simple, but it is not easy. Which gets me back to my goal for you: I want you to lose one pound this year and maintain it on January 1, 2015!
I can see the hands going up. "What about me? I want to lose fifty pounds this year!" Good for you. I am thinking that one pound is on the way to fifty, but I could be wrong.
Why such a lowly goal? Well, let me say this nicely: If you are sure you can lose one pound in a year, let's do it. One pound. One year.
Yeah, but why?
In the throwing events for track and field, John Powell—a former world record holder in the discus—gives us the key to goal setting: "Inch by inch, it's a cinch. Yard by yard, it is hard." I trained my whole career practicing with the idea of "last throw, best throw." No matter how the day progressed, I left a little mark by the best toss of the day.
My "last throw" would be when I beat that mark. It could take one throw or one hundred throws. I soon discovered that trying to simply ease one solid effort without any fanfare or craziness would create the "best throw of the day." A few years ago, at the Nationals, I was in second place by two centimeters. I smiled as I began my throw focusing on just trying to ease one lovely final toss and simply beat my own best throw. It went seventeen feet farther than my best of the day and I won.
Everybody has lofty goals. I often joke about a father whose daughter comes home and describes the love of her life: "Oh, well, Daddy, he is average looks, average height, okay body, average intelligence, okay socially, sorta blends in . . . but I am madly in love with him." Wouldn't we all want to sit her down and ask some questions about her big plans for the future?
I'm not telling you to settle. I am telling you to take a long term look at your health, fitness and performance over the past years (or decades) and realize that something as simple as a one pound loss in a year trumps a slow gradual fattening of the belly and butt and face.
Rather than have twenty goals to be perfect in all things diet, exercise, life and living, why not have one reasonable, doable goal.
I have it for you: next January 1, let's be one pound lighter. I won't punish you if it is more than that. (Want to kickstart your weight loss goal? Try this cutting-edge Get Back in Shape! program that's designed to blast belly-fat, but also leave you energized and excited.)
Dan John has taught and coached for more than 30 years. As a coach, he's helped hundreds of athletes pack on double-digit pounds of rock-solid muscle. As an athlete, John broke the American record in the Weight Pentathlon. He is the author of several books, including Intervention.
The original article can be found here
In the sport of rowing injury rates are staggering. I've read figures that range from 30%-70%. This means that at least one in every three rowers will find themselves without a seat. Yet the biggest issue is that these rates are accepted as normal in our sport. Every season athletes fall to injuries and the cycle repeats itself year after year. The simple truth that is commonly overlooked is that keeping our athletes healthy is the easiest way to improve performance. If our athletes are healthy then they have more time to train and thus more time to respond to training adaptations. More importantly, we then allow our athletes to live their lives without dealing with the consequences of a serious injury.
The truth is that there are only 3 ways to get injured from rowing (excluding any freak accidents or a serious crab).
1) Over-use or under-recovery
2) Technical error
3) Developed imbalances
Rowing is a non-contact sport therefore we have control over all 3 mechanisms listed above. Lucky for us we don’t have to deal with contact injuries such as ACL tears and concussions that are so prominent in other sports. The only way you can truly keep a football player safe is by keeping him on the sideline. We, on the other hand, can reduce the chance of all injuries from ever even occurring in the first place. All we have to do is make injury reduction a priority.
It's unclear what the cause was for my injury. What was clear was the fact that my five year rowing career had just come to an end. I found myself lost and confused. My coaches and teammates made me feel like I was weak and exaggerating the injury to remove myself from the competitive rigors of Division 1 rowing. After five months and five different doctors it was clear that I wasn't exaggerating anything. I had spondylolisthesis at L5 and two herniated discs. Surprisingly, I was told that this injury was common in rowers and that it was completely possible to continue my rowing career. In actuality this may have been true but I feared continuing would only make it worse. I eventually decided against continuing with the hope of being able to play with my kids in the distant future.
I didn't know it at the time but my injury happened for a reason. I've spent the last 4 years of my life trying to figure out how to reduce the chance for injuries in the sport of rowing. I don't claim to be the best coach by any means but I do believe I'm making a difference in these kids lives. What I hope to do by sharing my experience is to create some thought that may help more kids than I can personally reach.
Injuries like mine are far too common in the sport of rowing. I've read figures that range from 30%-70%. This means at least one in every three rowers will find themselves injured. Yet the biggest issue is that these rates are accepted as normal in the sport. Every season athletes get injured and not much effort seems to be put into avoiding these injuries. As Mike Boyle has said, coaches treat the sport as a "survival of the best bone and connective tissue contest, a twisted take on the survival of the fittest theory. Those who don't get injured by the volume of training survive to compete". All too often this mentality creates an environment where rowers are pushed to row to the point of injury and often through injuries.
Using what I have learned through experience, experimentation, sites such as strengthcoach.com, mentorships, seminars, books, videos, articles, and several internships I was able to reach my goal last season. My #1 goal was and is to have a team with no injuries. Yet, I knew that few people would care if my team also did not remain competitive. Which leads me to goal #2: be competitive. To do this I had to go against tradition. Along the way I got a lot of strange looks and comments on how I was doing things wrong. As my boss said at the end of the season, "it took a lot of balls to try what you did, but it worked".
There are 3 mechanisms of injury in the sport of rowing:
2) Technical error
Rowing is a non-contact sport, we have control over all 3 mechanisms listed above. This means that we can reduce the chance of all injuries from ever even occurring in the first place. All we have to do is make it a priority.
Comparing my last two seasons as a head coach:
-8 Injuries out of 30 athletes (27% a little better than average)
-6th Place finish at championships
-0 Injuries out of 28 athletes (excluding 1 pre-existing injury)
-3rd Place finish at championships
Not only did our injuries drop dramatically but our performance improved as well.
Changes made between seasons:
1) Emphasized Quality over quantity, work + rest=success
We dropped training volume, increased recovery time, and encouraged quality work instead of the quantity of work. When technique broke down, training stopped.
-Trained 5 days a week instead of 6.
-Trained 15 hours a week down from 18 (hours dropped 16%).
-Decreased work volume by 25%.
2) Used an extremely progressive ESD program
-Weekly work volume ranged from 27K to 65K meters.
"Elite" programs use between 80K to 160K of work volume, 2 to 3 times more than my program.
-Never increased volume more than 10% a week, less then 20% a month total
Dr. Fritz Hagerman, the exercise physiologist for the U.S. National team recommends the 10% rule in early stages of training and regressing to 5% in later stages.
-All workouts were designed around the length of a spring race(2K)
For my team a race lasts around 6mins so workouts simulated this length of time. For example 30sec intervals were done in sets of 12, totaling 6mins of work.
3) Went against traditional wisdom, advice, and warnings
I was told that a low volume program that practices 5 days a week would never work in the sport of rowing.
-Reduced the amount of time spent on pure aerobic work
It is common for programs to include workouts such as 60-90mins of steady state work. I see no value for these workouts and therefore eliminated them from our program. Dr. Fritz Hagerman and other research actually claims that pieces over 30mins have no further benefit, and are actually associated with injury.
-Most of our aerobic capacity work came through intervals
In early stages of interval work the athlete's heart rate is elevated for 24 minutes straight when we include active recovery.
-We never trained for the fall season
The fall season consists of head races which are 5K meters long. The competitive season consists of races which are 2K meters long. Since both goals are on the opposite end of the spectrum I believe training for fall before spring can hurt your performance in the spring.
-Strived to produce and reinforce power and strength, not endurance
I have found that athletes from other sports such as football and water polo make extremely good rowers. Why then would we try to make them more endurance oriented?
-Removed long runs from the program
A source of several injuries in previous seasons and other programs.
4) Unilateral Training
Although rowing is the only bilateral sport, I found that the nature of the sport lends itself better to unilateral training.
-The application of pressure is not applied evenly between the legs or upper body.
-Imbalances are developed that need to be remedied.
-Example exercises used were RFE split squats, SLDL's, and single leg squats.
-The only bilateral lifts used were trap bar deadlifts and goblet squats.
5) Created a specific warm-up using the FMS
Athletes were screened at the beginning of the fall and spring. Warm-ups were designed around these results.
-The men's team tended to have mobility restrictions at the ankle, hip, and t-spine.
-Example correctives used were kneeling ankle mobility, rib grabs, and leg lowers.
-The women's team tended to have stability limitations on the TS Push-up.
-Example correctives used were push-up holds, walkouts, and regressed/assisted push-ups.
6) Asked myself why
Thanks to my mentor, Brandon Marcello, I had to have a good argument to keep it in my program. If I couldn't justify it, it was removed. This forced me to honestly evaluate my program.
7) Good luck
Lets face it, we may have just gotten lucky.
1) Volume that is not progressive is dangerous
-Back pain was not noted until 1980 when training volume increased (Stallard).
-Most injuries occur in the fall season, a high volume period (Hosea).
-Most injuries in rowing are related to overuse (Hosea).
-Injury incidence is directly related to the volume of training (Hosea).
2) The aerobic energy system is important, be creative in how you train for it
-Avoid pieces longer than 30mins, there is no benefit, just added risk (Hagerman).
-Use active recovery as a means to develop aerobic capacity.
3) Technique & Mobility are linked
-Often times coaches get frustrated when an athlete doesn't fix a technical error, the majority of the time it's due to mobility restrictions. They just aren't physically capable of getting into the position.
-Mobility allows proper technique, therefore mobility is king
4) Keys to technique and injury reduction in rowing:
-Teach the hip hinge
If rowers don't know how to hinge they end up repeatly flexing their lumbar spine.
-Hammer hip & t-spine mobility
If they lack mobility here, they find it elsewhere, resulting in increased load on the spine.
-Emphasize core stability
Specifically focus on anti-rotation and anti-lateral flexion exercises.
5) The most dangerous position is the catch
-We need to teach athletes to instinctively activate their core to help protect their spine. Activation of the transverse abdominis and obliques, and developing infra abdominal pressure could help protect the spine.
Exercises that seem to fit the bill:
- breathing exercises
- anti rotation holds at the catch
- rotary suitcase holds
6) Avoid heavy low rate pieces
-These place excess stress on the back
7) Change can be good
-Don't reinvent the wheel, but always search for better ways of doing things.
8) Evaluation is key
- Keep track of everything you do and evaluate it honestly.
- Much of the learning process is discovered through trial and error.
Coaches tend to forget that athletes don't have the option to become a professional rower. If they did the chances of making it in professional sports are 1 in 12,000. Yet coaches treat rowing like a professional sport and they end up injuring athletes for the sake of their own egos. I hope that this article spurs some thought that results in smarter and safer training. It is possible to keep your athletes healthy, you just need to make it a priority. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. If I can help one more rower with this article it was worth my time and much more.
Blake is currently the Performance Coordinator for the Los Gatos Rowing Club in California. He has completed internships with Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, and Stanford Sports Performance. He can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
1) Hagerman, Fritz. "Training the Energy Systems".
2) Stallard, M.C. "Backache in Oarsmen". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 1980; 8 (14) :105-108.
3) Hosea, Timothy and Hannfin, Jo. "Rowing Injuries". University orthopedic associates. 2012; 5.
4) Smoljanović T., Bojanić I., Hannafin J. A., Hren D., Delimar D., Pećina M. (2009) Traumatic and overuse injuries among international elite junior rowers. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 37 (6). pp. 1193-9.
2) Proper Nutrition
What we use to fuel our bodies has a lot to do with the way we feel, move, perform, and recover. Below are a few points on nutrition from Michael Pollan's Book, Food Rules.
"Eat food, mostly plants, not too much" - Michael Pollan
1) Eat food
2) Mostly Plants
3) Not too much
I highly recommend reading Michael Pollan's Food Rules. It's a quick and easy read that really makes nutrition simple.
We often overlook nutrition and it's benefits and instead just pop a pill. I would recommend getting your basic diet in order before taking supplements. If you are eating a high quality diet and following these rules your body should be getting everything it needs. Do your best to get the majority of your nutrients from real food, and plants, and don't forget to watch your portions. Once you have your diet in line with these rules then you can start looking into supplementing your diet.
1) Sleep should be made a priority.
I know, It's very easy to fall behind on sleep with our busy schedules nowadays. However, if you aren't sleeping enough you are missing out on a free boost to your performance. Sleep deprivation interferes with memory, energy levels, mental abilities, and mood. It effects your performance at work, school, and in your particular sport.
According to Stanford researcher, Cheri Mah, sleep can have a major impact on athletic performance.
Cheri Mah recommends 7-8 hours a night for adults and 9+ hours for youth.
If you are interested in reading more check out the links below.
A lot of people think that crossfit invented the wheel in many cases. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "that's crossfit", in reference to one of my exercise choices. Yes, I do use Olympic lifts, plyometrics, and the occasional burpee, but that does not mean we're doing crossfit. These exercises have been around for years, and they are not the problem. The problem is in the programming. Crossfit's programming is flawed and frequently lends itself to injury. A performance coach's priority list should look something like this;
1) Do no harm
2) Decrease the potential for injury
3) Improve performance
My problem with crossfit is that the majority of crossfits seem to ignore these priorities.
Here are a few good article on why crossfit may not be good for you.
My athletes hear me say two phrases a lot;
1) Don't add strength to dysfunction
2) Quality over quantity.
Optimum performance training is about building a foundation before adding strength. It's about the quality of work over the quantity of work. It's about prescribing the minimal effect dose. It's about recovery. It's about progressive programming. It's not about running clients or athletes into the ground day after day. It's about following two basic rules;
1) Don't add strength to dysfunction
2) Think quality over quantity
Above you'll see Gray Cook's Performance Pyramid. This is how we should be training. In this pyramid we've developed a foundation of quality movement; full-range of motion, body control, and movement awareness. This movement supports our performance; power, strength, and endurance. Once we develop appropriate performance we can begin to add sport specific skills. The optimum performance pyramid is about knowing that our movement can handle the power we generate and the power generated can control our skills. It's about finding the appropriate balance.
The second picture illustrates what most people are doing when they train. They ignore movement and go straight to performance. Ignoring poor movement patterns and adding strength on-top of this dysfunction is only decreasing your performance and putting you at a greater risk for injury. A dysfunctional movement pattern can actually be why you aren't reaching your goals. It may not be that you haven't trained hard enough. It may not be because you aren't strong enough. It may just be because you don't move well. Each time you try to overcome movement restrictions valuable energy is being wasted.
Where some people get confused is they think that they need to only work on movement before they start working on performance. You can work on both at the same time, you just need to be safe and conscious about it. Work on your dysfunction and listen to your body. If you feel pain that's a sign that something needs to change.
Make sure you are incorporating movement into your workouts. The best way to do this depends on your situation but I've found that using a 15min warm-up and adding corrections to the workout have worked wonders. For the warm-up work on mobility first, then add stability to each dysfunctional movement pattern. The way we spend our warm-up is as follows; Mobility followed by Stability.
5mins Foam Roll (to change tissue density)
5mins Static Stretch (to change tissue length)
5mins Correctives/Dynamic (to cement the changes in length)
Recently I've been reading and learning from some of the best coaches in the world. Some of the books have included "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie, "Insideout Coaching" by Joe Ehrmann and "Wooden" by the world famous coach, John Wooden. In terms of coaches who have influenced my definition of success the list includes, Mike Boyle, all the staff members at MBSC, and the Sports Performance Staff at Stanford. Over the past couple of months I had the opportunity to visit MBSC for a week-long mentorship, and Stanford for half a day. Although I didn't get to spend as much time as I wanted at either venue I learned what some of the greats have in common. They understand the importance of relationships. They are truly genuine, and some of the nicest people you've ever met. They care about others and they jump at the opportunity to help anyone who is willing to learn.
How many times have we heard the quote, "No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care"? Well guess what? There's a reason we've heard it so many times, because it's absolutely true. Why do people dread dealing with car salesmen? Most of the time the salesman clearly doesn't care about you or your wants and needs. The stereotypical salesmen only wants to make a sale. All too often we as human beings let ourselves become salesmen. We start to forget why we are here and become engrossed in the quest for money. We have let ourselves become salesmen.
I can tell you that all the men and women that I have learned from above are not salesmen. They are some of the most caring, intelligent, passionate, and successful people I have ever encountered. If you want to be successful in any business, or in life, care about others. Let others care about you, and have a passion for what you do.
Thank you to those who have helped me grow as a person and a coach.
I think there is a big problem with the way the vast majority of the world defines success. Take this famous quote from Vince Lombardi for example, "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing". From this viewpoint If you don't win you are considered a failure and you should be disappointed with your efforts. So lets say that is your definition of success, winning at all costs. What happens when you lose and you did everything you possibly could to win, but you still ended up losing? You start to view yourself as a failure because someone else was better than you at putting points on the scoreboard or crossing the finish line. With this definition I think we are sending the wrong message to athletes and young people.
I personally subscribe to John Wooden's definition of success.
"Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming. Only one person can ultimately judge the level of your success...you. I believe that is what true success is. Anything stemming from that success is simply a by-product, whether it be the score, the trophy, a national championship, fame, or fortune. They are all by-products of success rather than success itself, indicators that you perhaps succeeded in the more important contest. That real contest, of course, is striving to reach your personal best, and that is totally under your control. When you achieve that, you have achieved success. Period! You are a winner and only you fully know if you won" (Wooden 170).
Worry about the things you can control, not the things out of your control. Work hard and prepare to the best of your abilities. If the result is a win, consider that win a by-product of your hard-work. Be proud of your work and dedication, and by all means, enjoy the win. Just remember that winning isn't everything.
The above quote can be found in "Wooden" by Coach John Wooden
The following article is a great way to think about training and life. Next time you find yourself pushing through pain remember, you only get one body.
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.
The original article can be read at Mike Boyle's Blog;