Thursday, December 31, 2009
Return of the Kettlebell (RTK) is Pavel Tsatsouline's double kettlebell program follow up to Enter the Kettlebell. The approach of RTK is aimed at muscular hypertophy strength. I started Return of the Kettlebell in September and have been going at it since then with the goal of putting on some arm mass - and of course getting stronger. Over the past few months, i've posted various updates on getting used to the new protocols in RTK, like double KB pressing and, especially, the hardstyle verion of the kettlebell longcycle.
The following post is more of a progress update since starting RTK in terms of its parameters for progress.
There are several ways in RTK to measure improvements:
- putting on muscle, for the promised hypertrophy.
- increasing rungs in the program's ladders
- increasing the number of ladders
- increasing the speed of completing the ladders (decreasing the time of recovery between rungs).
- Moving up weight for workouts
Arms, Lean Mass & Fat. But first, a quick review of other points. A part of this quest was to let myself explore gaining weight to gain muscle. Have i gained muscle? Let's look at the numbers.
First, bave i gained muscle mass on my arms as intended. Yes. a quarter inch. Not exactly fabulous, is it? but perhaps pretty good. I'm not sure. I don't see it - without a measuring tape i wouldn't either. And what if that gain is fat around the arm?
A nice thing - at least for me - is that both arms are now closer to the same size than previously. My left arm still lags a bit in strength (or maybe co-ordination), but less so in size, and perhaps not so much in strength.
Second, the other measures. I didn't start measuring right when i started in sept, but about a month in, in oct, i did. So i have measures across 83 days, from Oct 9 to Dec 31:
- bodyweight goes up by 2.7 pounds
- lean mass goes up by 2.09 pounds
- body fat% goes up by .163%
Now lean mass is everything that is not fat. So that's tissue like bone and muscle and also water and sugar. So that means that part of that 2.09 pound gain is not just muscle fiber. We'll come back to this.
Other Measures: Hips & Waist And along with my arms putting on .25 of an inch (sounds good), my waist is .5 bigger (not so good) and my hips, where i carry my fat, are .75 bigger (bummer). Somehow i just don't believe those last two gains are muscle (so why would the first one be muscle?). So it's not all perfect. And while gaining fat is something one is warned about when deliberately going for improving muscle mass, somehow on a small 5'6" frame that seems like a lot on the waist/butt for 83 days. Maybe not, maybe so. It's just how it feels.
Muscle Gain Calculations. So yes i have the measures to say that lean mass has gonne up. a bit. I also have the measures to say that fat has as well. So far so normal. Sort of. According to Chris Thibaudeau, talking about guys and muscle mass (but is it *that* different for gals), if a guy is really focussing on muscle gain, he can put on .25-.5 lbs of dry muscle a week. But along with that dry muscle is 40% glycogen/water. so for 100g of muscle, one has to add 40g of other (glycogen/water). So that 948g of "lean mass" i've developed? 379g is glycogen/water. Grand total: 569g of dry muscle or 1.25lbs dry. Now when the low end of Tib's estimate is .25 a week, that would be 5 weeks of effort. I did this in 11.85 weeks. That's 2.37 times longer than predicted IF, according to Tib, one is both eating and training optimally.
Does that mean that my effort was less than optimal or that my eating was actually so below optimal or that the program is not as hypertrophic as advertized?
According to Thibaudeau, someone with 120 lean mass needs 2455 cals to build that .25 muscle.
so today at 117.9, i should be ingesting 2412 for optimal muscle mass development. Am i? Well, no. I'm not. Why not? Seeing the size of my butt go up without the consequent muscle development doesn't inspire confidence to take in even more calories. Yes i'm in caloric surplus (wouldn't be putting on gut/butt inches without that) but not *quite* that high. IF my butt and waist had increased nigh on an inch each BUT i had developed that additional .25 of dry muscle a week i'd be thinking about it. But as the two are not exactly going hand in hand, i am dubious to push this without better information for women. Bottom line: mass IS going up (along with some fat) and many folks have shown that one doesn't need to "bulk" to gain mass reasonably.
In other measures: practice & strength.
So if the muscle gain has not been as hoped, what about other measures, eg
- increasing rungs in the program's ladders
- increasing the number of ladders
- increasing the speed of completing the ladders (decreasing the time of recovery between rungs).
- Moving up weight for workouts
Any Real Change at All?
A reasonable person looking at my progress, since rungs haven't gone up and weight hasn't gone up, is what strength changes have really occured?
Progress? Technique. I'd characterize progress in a few ways, one of which i haven't seen in the RTK text explicitly, and that's just getting used to the new moves with load.
For example, light and medium days are dandy to grease the groove. Don't get me wrong: medium days are no walk in the park; they're work, but heavy days are where, i'm finding anyway, that my control of the move is really being tested. First time i double snatched 16's for double presses was not a little freaky. Likewise it's taken till just about now for me to feel like i have anything approximating a groove on the long cycle with real weight, and i'll be very keen to have this checked at the RKC II cert to see if i've really understood the HS form here. It would almost be fair to say, ok, measuring could start now, since i feel i have the moves more in hand. So this technique grooving is definitely a place to measure progress. That's a whole lot of motor learning going on.
The way i'm noticing technique improvements is going from what has been total confusion or form devolution to starting to get into a groove.
Progress as Time/Speed. So the other main place i've been noticing progress is in terms of time taken for rungs, and this on a couple levels: especially on medium days of either block (explosive or grinding), the pauses between the first three rungs (the warm up rungs) are becoming vanishingly small. That's good. Likewise, the work sets (rungs 4 and 5) feel, well, groovier, stronger, like there's more left in the tank. This means that medium days are finishing at 30 mins +/-, rather than 40+ mins.
As for heavy days, as per the protocol, before thinking of adding in another rung, the goal is to get the time down as much as possible. Right now, heavy days for me are still heavy. Smoother, but still heavy. So i'm taking pretty good recovery between rungs, but focusing on technique, getting the moves smoother, that's happening.
What i've also noticed on variety days is that my single consecutive 16k presses on the left have increased, as has the ease of doing them - so better form. Likewise the smoothness of my 20k press on the right is better.
One other note of improvement - without thinking about trying for this, my resting heart rate has dropped pretty noticeably - at least to me - to pretty much the lowest it's ever been, ever, doing anything. Now that's something.
Take Away to Date
So, what's the assessment over the past 4 months of RTK?
The main progress seems to be in terms of technique on the long cycle (i hope), and perhaps coordination with double snatching and pressing. Definitely there's endurance strength gains from the cutting my recovery down between rungs, but hypertrophic strength?
There has been some mass gain, but it seems pretty slim to me - but i could be wrong. It's difficult to find good sources of information on this kind of measure. So in my experience, giving it my all to follow the protocol, i would not call this - so far - a particularly hypertrophic program.
Rungs and Ladders: My goal is to get to 5*5 on both the grinds and the explosive blocks for heavy days with the current loads, with good times, so that would mean getting to be ready to switch up to the next weight. After that, i'd like to get back to focusing on the beast challenge. The RKCII comes up at the end of Feb where the Long Cycle is part of the curriculum That's 7ish weeks away. It will be interesting to see how far i can progress towards that path in the coming two months. When thinking about doing five perfect C&J's with double 16's for the RKC II test for gals after three days of form and technique training, i've been biting my lip a bit, i admit. Those double 16's are a challenge.
Hypertrophy and Diet If i can stand it (it's rather tedious), i'll be keeping a closer eye on my calories and specific macro nutrient break down to see how that maps to lean mass and measurements, just to see what kind of tuning might be possible.
Variety Days. These have been either rowing or cycling or VO2max'ing. More recently i've been cycling in the AM (to give my arms a break) and rkc snatch test prepping in the evening (60 snatches a side in various set configurations from Randy Hauer with a tip of the hat to Ken Forsse).
This latter practice i've been thinking of as Astronaut Training. The snatch test for me is a bit of a bogey. By practicing these level of reps regularly (taking about 13 minutes rather than say 6 at test speed), my hope is that i will be well conditioned and prepped for the event. What does this have to do with astronaut training? My understanding of the early days of astronaut work is that the 'nauts practiced the same drills over and over in various conditions so that when the actual event ocured it was, well, well within tolerance and expectation.
Year End Thoughts on RTK
As said, right now the biggest take away seems to be about getting a base for technique - long cycle in particular. Once i get to heavy day 5*5's i'll do another assessment. In the meantime, something this very literally measured reflection is doing for me is raising the question what are my priorities for my practice? Where am i trying to go overall, and what is the optimal way to get there?
Inspiration to some Deep Thoughts
I've been looking at Fawn Friday's awesome ease in doing 24kg pistols which she's put down not to training the pistol, but heavy squatting (she's also nailed the 24kg press). Fawn has some pretty clear powerlifting goals from what i can tell from her blog, and that focuses her practice, and from my perspective seems to be getting fabulous results. She's particularly inspiring to me as she's a wee bit smaller than i am and significantly stronger. That's motivation/inspiration.
So i'm asking myself, where am i going?
My motivation for doing RTK has largely been to prep for the RKCII - to be as best prepped as i can so that i can take best advantage of the coaching that will be on offer. Beyond this, i've had the women's beast challenge in my sites (24k press, 24k pistol, 24k pullup). But as the RKC II approaches, and i'm feeling in the right place prior to that, i'm starting to pull back or up to the forty thousand foot level to ask, what the heck am i doing? Am i hearing the siren call of GS or the iron call of going back to bar bells? and if either WHAT FOR? What is the Big Picture? Does there need to be one? etc. Not questions i'd anticipated asking, but it seems they are both surprising and interesting questions to explore - especially as i find myself without a complete sense of an answer. A worthwhile journey, perhaps apt, heading into a new year.
All the best of the New Years to you all. May your health and wellness visions for the new year and decade all be bright. Tweet Follow @begin2dig
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Respect the Fat: An overview of Fat Burning Goodness
Brown Fat: New Improved Single Factor Thinking
We're Happy happy Happy With our Fat - or maybe not
"Lean Muscle "- muscle is lean - do you mean lean mass?
Green Tea - good for more than what ails ya - facilitating fat burning
What's 100% whole wheat? and what is it vs sprouted wheat? or sprouted anything?
Carbohydrates: the New Fat
Carbs or Protein before Bed? Not what you think
How much protein - no really - for muscle gain, maintenance
i like this piece - cuz i'm not crazy about the conclusions. That mainly protein may well be overdone if you're talking about muscle gain, which is different than using it for diet to feel fuller on less. There's also a difference between protein synthesis and protein absorption. They are not the same. And in particular, why creatine and load may be more important than protein for *gaining* beyond what ya gain just with exercise.
What's a whole protein? and why how should/can we have them?
ever wondered this? especially if you're a vegetarian? how get a whole protein from bread and beans? or what's a super bean as a whole/complete protein?
Optimal Protein Blends - for carnivores and vegetarians alike
A Minute with Mike: BCAA's, Leucine, or Plain Old Whey - does it make a difference?
Nutrient timing *may* make difference - for strength, body comp, muscle fiber...
The Pump: What is it, Does it Work and if so How and for What Kind of Muscle Growth?
Farmed Salmon: Health and Environment Concerns. Dam
Eating: Rewiring our Instincts for Sure Fire Weight Loss
Habits and Alternatives: one step at a time dieting (within critique of P90x) (including references to Precision Nutrition, Lyle McDonald, M.Beck, and a cast of thousands)
Supplement Curmudgeon: Does that DO anything for you?
Is what's on the label really in your supplement?
Creatine, Beta Alanine, Citrulline malate, and more b2d
Dealing with (a wretched) Cold
The Raw and The Cooked of Enzyme Supplementation
Weight Loss & Exercise
More on Exercise without Diet doesn't produce Weight Loss
Exercise doesn't work - without diet - really
Athletic Bodies: which one is you(r desired shape)?
P90X Critique Part 2 0f 3 - WIll you really "get ripped"?
Nutrient timing *may* make difference - for strength/mass development
Minute with Mike (2 ), Post Workout Recovery Window: real or myth?
Approaches to Nutrition
What the Heck is Sustenance? Review of the Z-Health 9S Sustenance
Rewiring Habits - support for lean eating (part of a Critique of P90X )
Set Point Theory is Crap: We are Only What We Eat
Review of the "Science" claims of the Warrior Diet
Human Support is KEY for Good Eating/Diet Success
Precision Nutrition. The best source to Learn about one's self and food
Georgie Fear's Dig In: The new easy, fast, tasty, satisfying recipe book: DIG IN
Farmed Salmon: Health and Environment Concerns. Dam
Food Inc.: the unbearable lightness of the food industry
Fitness Geek Book Recommendations
Images and Approaches: Real People making Real Changes with Real Support
Athletic Bodies: which one is you(r desired shape)?
Reflection/Critique of P90X review (in Three Parts)
Motivation as Skill: a Functional Definition of same Tweet Follow @begin2dig
Friday, December 18, 2009
For instance, if one looks out the window in the morning and it's snowing (as it is in southern england right now) and one is cold a 'bed, and well, as the Stanislovski inspired actor might say "What's my motivation?" to leave this happy state, what "goal" is there to which we might appeal to say "i have to go into work. blast"
Somehow going to work on a regular basis just does not seem like a goal, does it? It's rather a Maslow-ish necessity if that's how we maintain food, shelter, and not least that nice, warm bed? Let's get real - with motivation.
Getting Functional. In the i-phase z-health certification, motivation is a key component of the course as a key part of good coaching practice, and Eric Cobb, one of the most de-mystifying people i've heard present, takes what i've come to understand is a typically Cobbish/Cobbsian, view of motivation in terms of what can be turned into actual practice. That is, it's functional rather than personal. Motivation is the assessment between two consequences. That is we tend to weigh up the cost of doing the thing and not doing the thing, and go from there. So, in my mind, is the cost of not trudging through this untenable blustering british snow and going to work greater than the cost of getting up and going and out the door to work?
There's a certain appeal to this approach to motivation, not the least because, as Cobb puts it, one doesn't have to be all chipper to take the necessary action - something else that motivation seems typically to imply. One can be in a dreadful mood and still do the deed. One might even sulk a bit, and still have the Force of Negative Consequences to motivate one out the door. And if you dear reader need help with letting go of a dire mood cuz such things just suck one's energy, i have another post/idea for you here.
Death to the term "unmotivated" But then on the other side of the non-chipper doing, is the potentially happy decision to work from home rahter than work if such is an option. By putting the decision in terms of a cost/benefit analysis, removing the personal character traits, one may not be tarred with the offending brush that one is simply therefore "unmotivated." That is so disparaging. It seems to assert that there is a deep problem at the character level if one decides the costs outweigh the benefits of taking action.
The other context of course in which we see the harmful use of the term "unmotivated" is with folks who have struggled to acheive something -say a body comp goal - and repeatedly diet and miss or rebound. They are "unmotivated" or they'd succeed. Piffle. Lack of strategies for success is not the same as lack of decision to act.
Getting Practical: Skills rather than Flurfiness. But to the point, the idea of what i'm calling a functional definition of motivation is that it takes the Mystical and Emotional and Innate Characteristic out of the concept and makes it a practicable skill.
That is, rather than being about the right attitude - whatever that may be - it's about good, informed analysis. And it's way easier to chart out skills (that's the functional part) for analysis of consequences, and to define practicable skills to support any other practice one wants to perform (like getting to work or lifting a heavy object), than it is to develop something as mystical as Attitude. After all, if work required one always to be desperately in love with what one were doing to be motivated to do it, how much work would get done?
Aside - in discussing these ideas with colleagues at the dragondoor forum, someone brought up
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's Flow. Excellent book. If you haven't read it, or heard it, by all means, recommended.
The flow state is where one is doing something such that one is taxed sufficiently that skills are being called to bear so that one is engaged enough to find an action challenging and interesting. If one is overtaxed - say by a far more skilled opponent in a match of some kind - the task is hopeless - no place for purchase. Likewise if the task is underengaging one becomes bored and can be depressed or frustrated as well though for other reasons. So the author argues for any task, it is optimal to find a way to be in flow. But to get to flow, we assume that one has decided to engage in the activity, knows what they're doing to exectute it at an appropirate level of demand.
Familiarity of Cost/Benefit Analysis. The thing about this working definition of motivation is that it's based on something we already do quite regularly: i have to go to work lest i be fired. I must teach this class else folks take their money back and i starve.
What having the definition made explicit does, it seems to me, is it takes it outside of some innate mystical quality and makes it something accessible for discussion and analysis. So we can take apart our regular practice, interrogate it, and find ways to address obstacles. For instance Cobb has a tip that if we don't want to do something, find a way to get moving with it for three minutes and after that it will get into gear. Cool.
Likewise, thinking about the Season of Regret nigh upon us with body comp oriented goals or other New Years oriented deferrals of action promised, we have a very functional way to look at, say, food: we know that eating this additional mince pie will mean 40 more minutes of HIIT that we mayn't have in our bodies to erase. But what happens if that particular negative consequence isn't enough of a cost-as-motivation (rather than benefit as motivation) for the immediate denial of the extra Mince Tart? The consequence seems too far away for immediate payment. And so we still keep chomping?
What this suggests are potential opportunities to build up a bunch of things:
interrogating the perceived cost/benefits.
are the reasons what colleagues talk about as intrinsic or extrinsic? immediate or long term? I will be fired (extrinsic) or i will gain weight (too far away to be perceived) vs i have promised to do this thing and i value my word (intrinsic & immediate). Moving towards cost benefit analysis that focuses on intrinsic & immediate costs and benefits can help sustain a practice when extrinsic motivators may weaken.
In the mince tart example, this kind of instrinsic cost/benefit analysis framing may have more immediate usefulness. For instance, i made a promise to myself that i would only have one tart at this party, and i can keep that promise to myself. It's an important principle to me to do what i say, even to myself.
Skills in Motivation Analysis: Finding out what these both more intrinsic & immediately effective motivators are SKILLS based, not innate knowledge. It's not because we're a bad person and have no Will Power that we may fail in what we are motivated to do. We may have that in spades, but without the techniques of how to develop the analysis (recognise intrinsic vs extrinsic; what will be helpful at an immediate decision point rather than some far away goal etc)
|Motivation Cost/Benefit||immediate||longer term|
|intrinsic||promise to self||health|
|extrinsic||maybe not a lot||- public image: fat|
- lower cost & effort of calories to make up
Hence the value of seeing motivation as an assessment of consequences first (analysis not character), and then getting a set of related skills going (the right level of analysis) that will best support the desired consequence throughout practice. In other words, finding the right cost/benefit analysis that will keep mince tart munching to an acceptable level.
If we work with others, coaching, teaching, whatever, this also gives us a framework, it seems, to help them look achieving what they want: what are the extrinsic and intrinsic benefits and costs?
It's this kind of skills and functional approach around developing habits that i've been finding particularly fascinating of late because it says knowing how to make change per se isn't the main issue; knowing how to make change sustainable is, and that sustenance is NOT innate knowledge.
Sustaining Successful Change
There are a couple of books i've found that really touch on getting and the sustance-as-skills part of change. One of the, in the diet space, is Martha Beck's 4 Day Win. Not unlike Cobb's Three Minutes of Movement to Get Stuck In, Beck finds strategies that are completely and totally doable, and sets up a 4 day win strategy for each towards building better habits for change in the diet space. Her work in psychology has shown that if you can get a new practice going for 4 days, you can get some important re-wiring done.
If you're interested in this kind of plastic brain rewiring, there are other related books recommended here.
The other book i'd recommend for consideration coming into the new year is Stephen Covey and R&A Merril's First Things First. This book is focused on re-wiring habits and perspectives to help get things done.
I like it because it is NOT about how to make To Do lists; it's about figuring out one's real and foundational motivation for something - principles as Covey calls them - and having pracitces to support those principles. Very functional. He talks about how to keep the first things the first things. Or, a fave: don't prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities. No kidding.
Habits as Skill Sets; Skill Sets as Habits: Both these books represent approaches to develop habits - or what we might call automatic or reflexive or neurologically wired, practiced responses to situations - to help us rather than achieve goals per se, live principled lives. As Covey and colleagues argue, once we know what we're saying "yes" to - what's important to us - it's easier to say "no" to what is not. The heuristics offered in the book for getting to a place in life where, for instance, most activities are Important but Not Urgent is very cool (the other parts of this quad are Not Important and Not Urgent, Urgent (for usually someone else) but not Important (for your Yes), and Urgent and Important. First things First argues that the goal is to get as much as possible happening in that quality quadrant that is non-reactive and then has room for the real and unexpected emergencies, rather than living regularly in the reactive, as many of us do. Functional.
Who's Involved? Covey, Merril and Merril also tend to look at those Important but Not Urgent things relative to Roles and Relationships. In which of my roles is this task assigned; what trust relationship does that engage? It seems when we situate our responsibilities or things we're motivated to do relative to relationships that we care about because they feature Real People, those actions can become more meaningful. Am i not eating this tart just for myself, or because i care about my family and a commitment i've made to them to get healthy, and this frickin' little tart is one part of that commitment? Or if not to family, i've made a promise to myself that i'll stop at one, and whether it matters or not, in terms of calories, i'm practicing doing what i say i'll do. This is one small act i will have at the end of the day to say i did what i said i would do.
Beck likewise spends time getting to grips with real inner self parts who tend to look out for opposing interests (the wild child and the judge for instance) and come to a place that by understanding these positions, and observing them, and learning some new skills for working with them, we can get our collective acts together.
Skills Aren't Innate, but they can become Wired. Where this all gets to for me, as you can probably tell, is the notion of being more gentle with ourselves because we ain't born knowing how to do stuff we ain't wired to do.
Consider the fascinating work by Susan Roberts of Tufts around the ways we seem to be wired almost instinctively to go for just the kinds of foods that when there's an abundance of 'um, they become "bad" foods, but at just about any other time than now (now being our supra abundant food always in reach affluent culture), really survival smart: energy dense, familiar, available, satisfy hunger, and even variety rich.
In other words, we need to rewire ourselves to have new instinct-like responses to our 21st C affluent environment, where motivation is more subtle than move or die (though actually that's still the case).
It's Neurological and it's a Skill and So needs Reps. Rewiring is achieved through learning, repping in new neural pathways. And when we learn something, the best teaching is usually that which breaks a practice down into manageable, practicable, learn-able skill sets.
My suggestion is that if you're in doubt about some of those skill sets, the above framing and books may be a useful ways to begin to get to grips with practice, and tune up the motivation to something that can fire up the behaviours, once learned, we want to fire up reflexively to help keep us happy, healthy and wise into the new year.
And coaching: When we work with others - supervising, teaching, coaching - what's good for the goose is good for the coaching space too. I used to teach a lot of so called "required courses" - courses students had to take as part of their program, and so did not meet with love. One thing found out there is that often students doing a required course hit boredom pretty fast. If we have the Flow model, we can get pretty quickly that the material is either too simple to engage them or too far out of reach to find a way to get engaged. So that's one problem - how to help get to a flow place to provide a pathway.
The same can happen with movement-related goals: the person doesn't have something that allows them to hit a flow state: the prospect of sitting on a stationary bike and pedalling for 40mins is too tedious to endure. So finding flowful practice (to coin a term) is coaching job one.
But let's assume we hit that flow. How stick with it?
In the required course, helping to figure out ways to make a course relevant for a 300 students in one lecture is a bit of a challenge, but actually taking time to talk about what their reason is for being in the room via Covey-like unpacking can be useful: what principle does doing this course support? What are the uber goals to which this particular course is part of the process? How find relevance (and if we can't, well, perhaps that is a Sign Unto Us to Find Something that Is).
That's one tack. Creating a craving may be another. Finding the hook to associating the action with pleasure (reward) such that there's a gap, a loss, when it's not there, is a Good Thing, too. So we can imagine that finding flow may help find the reward/pleasure in something and doing that thing becomes one way to get that feeling back. How do we find that hook?
Assuming someone wants to figure that out, wants to get to that place of Doing the Thing, Motivational Interviewing is a strategy for helping folks self-talk towards supporting these behaviours they've already decided they want to undertake. Generally the strategy is about how to listen effectively and affectively. I mention this in passing right now for reference if you are working especially one on one coaching (whether athletically or otherwise) someone towards that intrinsic motivation path.
Move along little doogie, move along. A quickie path to better days seems to be movement in general. One of the best things about creating a habit of moving (and if we walk we already have some of that habit to build upon) is that we're designed to move; not moving is not as much fun as moving. We feel better when we do it.
The challenge for a coach may be making the case that there are LOADS of options that fulfil the movement criteria. Don't want to lift heavy today? Fine. Let's do something else. The movement is the habbit. That's the pleasure; not the guilt trip of not doing *exactly* what one imagined one was supposed to do. Shoot that word "should" please.
IT seems easier to stay motivated - to get the cost/benefit effect when the practice of the action becomes pleasurable, desireable rather than a chore. A good coach - of movement or any activity - will help make that happen with us.
Practice: it never frickin' stops
The intriguing thing i have found is that like any skill, to stay razor sharp, or even just half way effective, even these skills have to be practiced regularly. They need their 10thousand hours, too. And right now that's exactly what i need (am motivated) to do. Get my 3 min. dig in going. And heh, it's actually stopped snowing and there's a blue sky. In the UK. In december. Wow, makes me feel, oh i dunno, motivated? Na. The consequences haven't changed from 5 mins ago, but there's one less obstacle now to getting down to it.
All the best to you and your practice.
- - Habits in Eating - not about the food - practice approaches.
- - Mentor and Group support as part of reaching goals/changing habits
- - review of precition nutrition, habit-based eating.
- - getting rid of crap around goals
- - the perfect rep quest series
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Choosing to Affiliate. Anyone can become an affiliate for just about anything, and that's fine and dandy. Take a look for the term "affiliate" on anyone's site to see if they offer that kind of program. At B2D, however, i haven't affiliated to any product i don't use or haven't evaluated repeatedly and found worth telling folks about.
Assumptions around Links. My concern is that recently i heard someone refer to this practice of using affiliate links as "sneaky" and i was, to use a british expression, gob smacked, and kinda upset: would b2d readers think i had been pulling a fast one with the ads on my site, or the links to products in some posts? I know i've been pretty explicit in some posts about how commissions work, but i don't do it every time i mention a product. What's the solution?
So i thought the best way to address this point is to create this post to say something about the products i talk about when they do have affiliate links associated with them.
ANd oh - what's an affiliate link - just to leave no stone unturned? In my experience it's one of two things: it is either a link to the usual web site with a particular code in it that maps back to the affiliate, or it's a link to a specific affiliate site that logs the transaction and then redirects the person to the website product page.
Affiliate Link Policy: i get emails to become an affiliate for lots of stuff quite regularly. Nothing wrong with that. But if the product isn't something i've used and can recommend, and fits the b2d zone, i ignore it.
Review Policy for Affiliate links:
First, let me preface this by saying not everything i review has an affiliate link with it. The most popular posts on the site are about vibram five fingers and p90x. No affiliate links. I promote stuff like Escalating Density Training all the time. No affliliate connection. I hope that goes some way to suggesting that i promote stuff i feel worth taking the time to write about whether i have the potential to make anything back from it or not.
If i review something on my site and use an affiliate link, it's because i can give it a positive review because i use it, or i've found good results with it when i use it with others. I've gotten to the place now where i get asked to review things, and if i can't give stuff a good review i just don't. I don't get paid to write anything here, and as some folks might note from the detail i put into things, some of these reviews take considerable time to craft.
So *if* i can endorse the object i review, and give a fair review to it, and there's an affiliate program, i'll get an affiliate link and use it. You will not find something on this site that has not been part of a descriptive post featuring it. Some folks will go so far as sometimes to ask me explicitly if i have an affiliate link, cuz they'd like to support the work on b2d; others have made a point to tell me they've purchased something with my affiliate link, because they appreciate the review quality. That's always nice - but it's also lead me again to think this link convention may be more clear than it is.
Integrity. Now i suppose someone might feel a bit jaundiced by this potential benefit from a review: how pure a review is this if i stand to get money from it? That's a fair question: there's bias in everything, and if folks did not know about the affiliate linking thing - something i had thought was clear - then they may feel they are being lead - though i would hope the content of any review is such that it's clear why i'm promoting something, and that enough detail is offered to be able to make an INFORMED decision about whether the thing is for you or not.
The context may also be relevant here. For example: there's an add for z-health products on this site, and links to their stuff. If you look at my credentials, it's pretty clear this is stuff i use regularly for myself and with the folks i coach, so my bias, such that it is, is also pretty clear, but the goal here is to make these connexions completely unambiguous. And really, based on how much i've written about z for example and how much i've personally invested in certifications, relative to what the actual commissions are (easy for anyone to check), i would starve if i relied on these links for an income. No, i'd be dead. As much and all as i'd like it to be different, b2d has a pretty small readership compared with some of my blogeagues - you can check that too, on the blog by the no. of folks who grok b2d, the feedburner subscribers numbers and the sitemeter count since b2d started.
The thing is, i value and respect this readership. Folks have decided to let b2d take a slice of their decision making time when they figure out what stuff they want to read in a day. that's not nothing; that's dam significant. And so, so what if b2d is a pretty niche blog! if the whole affiliate linking thing hasn't been clear, i want it to be clear, so there's no sense of any hanky or remotest panky at b2d.
Bias Protection: Guarantees. If someone's getting money from something, they're getting money from something, and it's fair to say that that might make a difference to their review. This is why research papers site the sources of their funding, so that can be taken into consideration when adjudicating the methodology of a study. There's a great chocolate milk as energy drink study which has support from the dairy industry in the US. Now you could say that that's bias BUT people with nothing to do with dairy have reviewed it prior to publication and said ya, wow, really strong methodology there. Now others may always say, i don't care how clean that methodology looked: if you're funded by dairy you're tainted. The same may apply to a blog: i don't care how detailed that review looks, if you might get something from a sale of that thing, i'm off. And you know what? That's ok. Of course it is. Full disclosure means a person has the grounds to make that decision or not. And i'd rather have folks be happy to visit b2d cause this is all clear than there's ambiguity where i thought there was clarity.
At that point it gets to a question of mediatus radix: consider the source. Is there trust there, such that the review, despite the possibility of recompense, seems fair?
As a safety net around this question, with any of the stuff i've endorsed, something i also haven't made explicit, is that there's also a guarantee that if you don't find what's on the label is what's in the tin, you get your money back from the source. If that's not part of the terms, i don't support it.
Does that Help? As said, i was really wow'd when someone said they found my site just to be about making money - not that there's anything wrong with that a priori and it would be wrong to say i don't enjoy getting any commissions that come from the ads: money is money.The other day i got 3.99 as my monthly commission on Gymboss, and i'm thrilled. Some other soul will now have a happier VWC experience because of that. But that's rather secondary to b2d's mission. There are way better ways to make money than writing a two part series on what is delayed onset muscle sourceness, a literature review; or how are supplements certified, or how to move your hips to get better stability for one's press.
But as said, the main important thing here is that these transactions have seemed pretty transparent. So i guess what concerned me is that i do put a lot of time into the material i present, whether product or research reviews, and have thought of it as fair and above board, and so if there's any glimmer of that not being so, i want to nip it in the budd, and hope this post might have helped to do that, so that if you continue to read b2d, it's cuz you know what's what and have confidence in that what.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009
If you're not 100% sure, you may want to connect with the Lean Eating program, or gift it to someone you love. Here's why: knowledge and human support make the difference for real and lasting diet success. Yesterday i offered a pointer to what real people look like who have made real progress on body comp goals
- great nutrition practice info and
- great support.
A few months ago we ran a survey of a sample of Precision Nutrition members. We asked them a number of different questions, some of which were to ascertain their level of fitness, some of which were to test their nutritional knowledge, and some of which were to determine their access to mentorship and social support.DO you have the Support You'll Need? It may be that you may have a fabulous community or at least a few important people in your world who can provide great info and super support for your goals in nutrition. Way to go. THose people all need seasonal cards.
The results were fascinating.
We wanted to know how much of an impact mentorship and social support actually have on a person’s ability to reach their physique goals.
So we asked people to rate their happiness with their own physique on a scale from 1 to 5, like so:
- Extremely unhappy – I’m nowhere near my goal and I doubt I can make it.
- Unhappy – I’m far from my goal but I’m willing to do something about it.
- Ambivalent – I’m working toward my goal but I’ve got a ways to go.
- Happy – I’m close to my goal and making progress.
- Extremely Happy – I’ve achieved my goal and I’m working on maintenance now.
We then looked only at the people who answered [5. Extremely Happy] in order to measure the impact of various factors on their success.
What stood out immediately was the fact that there wasn’t a significant difference in nutritional knowledge between the people who had achieved their goals (the 5’s) and the people who were still working on it (the 3’s and 4’s).
The people who achieved their goals knew their stuff (you have to, of course – success is not an accident), but so did many of the “in progress” people. In other words, you need to understand nutrition science – but it isn’t enough to get in great shape.
But then we looked at the response to this question:
“Have you ever had regular mentorship from someone who was in the exact shape you wanted to be in?”
Note: In this context, regular mentorship is defined as constructive and impartial feedback and direction, on a near-daily basis, for a continuous period of at least 3 months.
And check this out:
77% of the 5’s said “Yes” (37 out of 48)
Only 17% of the 3’s and 4’s said “Yes”
And less than 5% of the 1’s and 2’s said “Yes”
That’s a remarkable difference! Think about what that means for a second: you need to know a lot about exercise and nutrition, that’s true; but most of all, you need to find someone who’s where you want to be, and lean on them for help
For folks who either have willing folks but without the knowledge (or potentially not great knowledge beyond their own experience) or have great knowledge but lack support - may even be in an environment that will be somewhat resistant to change, well, there are programs that offer this. The one program i know of, and trust, and where as i posted yesterday you can see the kinds of real people results that occur, is Precision Nutritions.
I'm bothering to post about this program again because the Lean Eating Program is about to get ramped up again (last summer's review here), and, as before ,there's a waiting list to get into it. They're opening up an early pre-sign up to get on the next list for the new year (you know, when we all get a little sensitive about post beast/feast effects)
Here's a quote from one of the people who did the program, and wrote about their experience on my first post about the Lean Eating Program
I joined the program to get thru tax season without gaining another 15 pounds! I go from working 40 hours a week to 76 (avg) for 2.5 months during tax season. Usually, I put nutrition and training on hold. "I'm too busy."
The LEP taught me how to get organized, prioritize, and keep on track. Working 76 hours per week, I still had the time to train 5 hours per week, plus make all of my own meals and take them with me each day. I went from a tight size 8 to a loose size 4. :) And during the process, I was happy about it. (Training makes me feel good, and eating PN style gives me energy. Great combination!)
Tax season this year was much easier on my family. I was happy and energetic, instead of wiped out and irritable. :)
- Group coaching program for women who want to become lean, fit and healthy the PN way
- 6 month duration
- Taught by world-class nutrition instructor
- All resources online and downloadable, 24/7
- Private support forum with guaranteed responses
- Daily instruction, weekly seminars
- Monitored action tasks and assignments
- Results guaranteed: 100% satisfaction or the course is free
- Plus, win $10,000 if you achieve the best transformation in the group
6 months of coaching - en direct, from wherever you are right now, to get to where you want to go. Plus, beyond that regular personal coaching, there is a huge network of passionate people to support your success ( a place where i like to hang out, actually, because of the great expertise there - athletes, trainers, coaches, folks with doctorates in all areas of well being - and all incredibly nice. I can't get over this: folks are so NICE).
Anyway, i hope if you know someone who you think might benefit from this approach, you might encourage them to put their name on the waiting list. Something just for your well being (or theirs) for the New Year. And you ARE worth it.
THis just isn't one of those 12 weeks is all it takes to change oh, everything, to get results type approaches. A six month/26 weeks space is realistic NOT just to get on some kind of diet, but to get one with the type of habit changes that may be needed to support building up practices that support progress. Really, its' so not about the food. Food is good and important, and we learn an awful lot about it with PN, but more than anything else the PN approach is about habits. We know how challenging it can be to change existing habits, especially about something as loaded as food.
Which brings me back to support and coaching. Especially if you or someone you know has been yo-yo'ing around dieting with whatever approach, here's time to think about the fact there's nothing wrong with you; we are wired in certain ways with respect to food, and it takes effort and support and knowledge to rewire these habits. Changing habits isn't inate knowledge, either. Understanding this - that it's not us the eaters who are screwed up - is half the battle; getting knowledge but also the support and good guidance on retuning and building up knowledgeful habits for what will work FOR THE LONG TERM for us, is a key part of the other.
Vote Your Support. If you'd like to show support for those real people who have participated in the Body Comp Competition of the Lean Eating Challenge, please vote for your faves here:
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Pain & Change. If your fitness geek suffers from chronic pain, besides putting a card under the tree to say you're giving them a session with a z-health trainer (here's a list), consider helping them get a model of what's going on with chronic pain. A fabulous book in this regard is David Butler's Explain Pain.
This is a great plain-language, illustrated text on what we know about the neurology of pain, what's going on when pain goes from acute to chronic, and most particularly, what are strategies for getting a real handle on one's chronic pain to reduce it.
No surprise, movement is discussed as a great way to help actually rewire the nervous system which can get a bit screwed up (described further in this post on chronic back pain). But the main thing this book offers is a model of the pain process: how pain is perceived by the nervous system, translated by the brain as pain or not, and how we can work with that knowledge to turn down the volume on pain.
If you know your geek really enjoys this area of research, another book that's interesting is The Body has a Mind of Its Own
Again, this book is looking at our neurology in terms of how we are plastic people: we adapt constantly. By getting a handle on that plasticity, we can begin to work with that more directly for our well-being.
Another one in this space - that shows great examples of this plasticity in action is the Brain the Changes Itself. This book got me totally jazzed about how we are always adapting. In particular it inspired me to look into the work going on at Posit Science that's helped kids and now the elderly to reclaim their brains. That's only one example of the work that's described that's been looking at everything from stroke rehab to dyslexia to autism to supposed senility.
Aside: Elder Brain Care And that reminds me, this is not a book, but if you do have elders whom you care about, and where they or you or both of you sense that mental acuity, hearing, related, seems to be deteriorating, please consider looking into Posit Science's products yourself.
There's a great online evaluation that's just listening to tones/patterns that you can sit down and do with your elder or ask them to do on their own to give them a baseline of what their perceptual age seems to be.
The brain tools that are part of the programs are like games that the participant plays that rebuild perceptual and conceptual accuity. It is amazing it's so effective. The design is not like the brain games stuff that we see on hand helds. This stuff has been evaluated a LOT to check real results. The packages are a couple hundred bucks, but when we think about the costs of assisted living/care, and just quality of life, they pay for themselves over and over.
FOOD & Change
Sometimes for some people, food is as painful to contemplate as an ongoing ache. If there's one thing you can do for these folks is give them an e-book that de-stresses the cooking, food-making process. RD Georgie Fear's DIG IN really does this in spades. The recipes are simple, delictious, tasty, and totally lean-eating friendly so no worries on over-dosing calories for the food geek.
The book is overviewed here, with indicative recipes also provided, and a list of any utensils actually needed, and an interview with the author linked in. What's not to like.
Oh and the book is cheap, too, AND you can have it now via instant download, or you can have it sent to someone really easily for that on time delivery - either download or physical copy. The pics are fab.
Perhaps you yourself are a fitness geek, and someone you love is actually having a hard time with getting their eating to a place where they're getting the body comp results they want. Maybe because you're already pretty fit, you're not sure how to help them. No kidding. Diet change work can be frought. Now i'm a long time fan of Precision Nutrition, and there's a free e-book way you can offer your special person a way to check it out, just click here.
A related approach that it diet-free by Martha Beck, simply focuses on working through stages of change. As Beck argues, a lot of dieting goes crazy not cuz people lack discipline but because we don't have great strategies (a) to plan for what usually is CHANGE to the way we do something like the conditions under which we eat and (b) we don't therefore know how to plan for success.
Beck's 4 Day Win: the Way to Thinner Piece is a fab and engaging workthrough and work book for eating change that if practiced (and she makes the practice be whatever is absolutely doable for the person reading the book - so it's YOU driven and based) that it's guarenteed to help get that person to a Happy Place - whatever diet you choose. It's so not about the food, but about what we do, and this book helps support those processes of doing change.
Patterns & Change & Opportunity
And just for fun? I've written about it before in the context of the Perfect Rep Quest, but Michael Gladwell's book Outliers brings together a whole whack of work well known within sociology but not so well known beyond that takes on the story of the Loan Great Individual. Gladwell does a pretty convincing job to demonstrate that no genius on the scene has emerged without - besides being smart/talented - having put in their 10 thousand hours of work in their field. That's a powerful fact. Even in music - the great and talented there - there is evidence of the ten thousand hours.
Gladwell unpacks how to get to these ten thousand hours before others sometimes means pretty special access to the resources and opportunities to enable this 10k of time, or by some standards, literally being born early enough in a season to have the right development in place by the time a selection is made for say a sports team.
Some have argued against these points saying pishaw there are too geniuses - not everyone who plugs in 10k hours at something is brilliant.
This may be true, but the corollorary is not. Indeed, the point remains that even with native talent, without putting in the time with attention and will but the time nonetheless, a person just doesn't get to carnegie hall.
Why is this a fitness geek book selection? Am i just showing a bias for a canadian author? As i wrote about last year, the role of the rep towards the perfect rep is no small thing. The PR lift may be as much about form as it is about strength, eh? If strength is a skill then a lot of practice with attention will be a good thing.
Real Fitness Books for Fitness Geeks.
If you're interested in more traditional lifting and muscle and related books (and other necessities) for your fitness geek, i proposed a whole bunch in last year's fitness geek giving guide. They can all be found in this post. I hope you enjoy, and can use these tips to shop faster and spend more real time with the fitness geeks you love.
All the best of the season to you!
mc Tweet Follow @begin2dig
- good models where we can see someone like us has done what we want to achieve and
- support from people going through this process who may be a wee bit further along than ourselves.
The above bits are two parts of why i've been keen on precision nutrition (PN review) as a great platform to support the change process. Change after all is actually painful: we rewire our brains, and that takes effort, so getting support is a big deal. Getting quality support even bigger.
Anyway, here's an opportunity to take a look at some folks who have put themselves out there within a lean eating challenge for body transformations program with PN called Lean Eating - there's a waiting list for this program, and it's one i wrote about back in the summer if you'd like to take a peak - especially at the comments from folks who have been on it and had that support and direction for their progress.
The photos of the finalists have just been posted online.
Whether you're looking to kick off a body transformation of your own. Or whether you're in the process of accomplishing an awesome transformation, the photos are sure to provide
some serious motivation:
The thing i really like about this particular transformation presentation is that these are real people showing real results and offer a great reality check about what any of us can expect from just getting on board with good nutrition practices. Real, not airbrushed.
- Support for Human Support in Body Comp success stories
- habits and eating: change is pain and how to address that
- PN package notes
- exercise without diet dosn't equal weight loss.
- Georgie Fear and the Dig In (PN hip) Lean Eating Cook Book overview
Monday, December 14, 2009
But first, a bit of context: this tip was demo'd for me by Z-Health Master Trainer & RKC Lou McGovern of Essential Strength when Lou was helping me to hone my rather dire longboarding skills. Let me also say that Lou is a fabulous trainer. If you want to get better and ANYTHING you are doing with movement, and happen to be anywhere around San Diego, seek him out. You will be well recompensed for your efforts.
Ok Second to the point at hand, as Lou asked me "where are the hips?"
If you (as i did) pointed to your thighs, we have to think deeper. The joint where the femur connects to the pelvis is well inside the leg, rather a handspan out from the crotch to the joint.
The idea is to think about this joint and consciously turn the thigh out (externally rotate).
If you put your hand on that area of your leg, and do this motion, you can feel the hip joint move.
At the same time you do this, you'll aslo feel your glute muscles tense as well.In contrast, you can clench your butt without engaging the hips.
Cranking Up the Strength. Which is stronger? Butt clenching or Hip Joint Out?
Lou demonstrated the difference between these two positions by having me stand in neutral stance, putting my arms straight out in front of me.
He then asked me just to clench my butt, and from there he pressed down on my outstretched arms. Which came down.
He then asked me to reset my arms and this time think about rotating my hips out. He then tried to push down on my arms again. They were much stronger this time (they didn't get shoved down).
Echoes in Powerlifting Cues? In a quick exhange about this tip with Pavel, Pavel asked if this were the same idea as powerlifters "screwing their feet into the floor." Lou said, yes, it's just thinking about the other end of the movement, too, in a bone ryhthm way (see this post on the viking push press for a bit more on bone rhythm).
In other words, in the screwing the feet into the floor in a squat, one plants the feet, let's say parallel to each other, and rotates out against the foot plant. In the hip turn, now we're thinking about not just the feet turning out but the hip (the top of the leg, really) as well.
aside: This approach of rotating out against a fixed point seems similar to how Pavel describes the hand/arm position for the one arm push up in Power to the People.
Trying it Out. If you give this move a go when swinging a KB or deadlifting or squatting, you may find the move is stronger, smoother, easier. Personally i find on the squat this coordinated move makes it easier to keep my knees where they're supposed to be. Likewise on the top of the swing, if i think about turning my hips out, i don't have to think about driving the hips forward or "snapping" them - the snap happens as a result of the hip movement.
Conceptually. I like this approach: the concept of the hip snap, while i've been doing it for the swing and snatch in particular, has felt like Something We Just Do to get the hips forward. With the notion of rolling the hips out, which results in the pelvic thrust AND the glute contraction and pelvic muscles getting worked too, it seems to simplify the "what to do" meaning there's less to check on the move check list - at least for me. Your mileage may vary.
Likewise, at least for me, what Lou has brought to what is perhaps a set of well known hip tropes for many lifters is to really think about *what do we mean by the hips?" Just that simple point of really gettting WHERE that joint actually IS in the movement has been huge. The "hip" seems so amorphous. What is that, now that i think about it (or thought about it then). But by actually getting at the notion of the joint and the joint action, things open up. It makes all the metaphors of feet screwing and hip thrusting and butt clenching kinda happen. That's what makes a great coach for someone, is that that person can connect in a meaningful way a good mental model for the athlete. Thanks Lou.
Give it a Go? If you want to try this, please by all means try the arms out, butt clench, and then arms out hips rotate front/out with someone pressing down on the arms to feel the difference. IF no one is around to test this, simply try this move with your squat or swing and see what you think. Let me know.
Many thanks to Ken Froese at the DD Forum for pointing out this vid of Lou talking about spinning out the hips in the context of an overhead kb press. A key point in the vid (and it's so CLEAR after it's explained, like duh) is that it locks out the hip hinge part of a lift (like the clean with a kb) so that, with the hinge gone, there's a really stable platform - less give. That's yet one more reason this technique is so potent. Here's Lou:
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