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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.

Coach Rick takes aim at the Fittest on Earth

20 Mar

Endurance has the Kona Ironman, cycling has the Tour de France, and weightlifting has the World Championships. These marquee competitions crown the best athletes in the world in their respective sports.

In the last 10 years, CrossFit, the new “sport of fitness,” has emerged and with it, its marquee competition: the CrossFit Games. What is CrossFit?  CrossFit is a fitness program that combines a wide variety of movements into a timed or scored workout. In competition, CrossFit workouts include pull-ups, squats, push-ups, weightlifting, gymnastics, running, rowing, and much more. The workouts are always changing, forcing athletes to be proficient in and prepared for anything.

In 2007, the minds behind CrossFit set out on the bold challenge to find and crown the fittest man and woman on earth in the sport of fitness. In brief, the history of the Games began in 2007 as a single event in Aromas, California with a mere 70 athletes competing in three workouts over one day.

Fast forward to 2012. The Games has blown up into a three-stage, worldwide competition open to any athlete in the world. The season begins with an Open competition with workouts are posted each week for five weeks and participants may perform the workouts at any one of the over 3,000 affiliates around the world or videotape it from home and submit it online to be validated. The top 60 male and 60 female athletes from the 17 worldwide regions advance to a Regional competition where they compete in six workouts over three days with only the top three advancing to the world championship, the CrossFit Games on July 15th in Carson, California where the fittest man and woman on earth will be crowned.

For the last four weeks, CrossFit Los Altos/FIT has hosted the Open workouts for our very own coaches and athletes: Rick Dyer, Scott Kolasinski, Matt Brockhaus, Jenny Lewis, and Dan Atler.

While all our athletes have enjoyed the competition and camaraderie, it’s studly coach Rick Dyer that’s been a standout once again in the Nor Cal region. Rick started the competition slow, placing 150th after the first workout in the region. Since then, Rick has been steadily moving up the ranks: 65th after week two, 55th after week three, and currently 42nd after week four.

With only one workout to go in the Open competition, competing against over 55,000 participants worldwide, Rick is poised to qualify to the Northern California Regionals in Santa Clara on May 18-20th for the second year in a row.

With more than 1500 competitors in what is considered one of the toughest regions in the world, Rick’s performance so far is a true exhibition of strength, athleticism, and sheer guts. Stay tuned for updates on Rick’s final performance of the Open.

Little League Baseball – Spring Training

8 Apr

Spring is here and so is beginning of the Little League baseball season, weather permitting!  You’ll be making plenty of trips to the ballpark for practice and games, and often becoming just as much of a coach for your child as you are a proud parent and fan.  Because most youth throwing injuries occur while pitching, I wanted to throw out a few tips and bring to your attention some of the factors that may reduce injury risk for youth pitchers.

How Kids Learn
Whether in practices or games, seek to create an effective learning environment with young players. There are various styles of learning. The three primary modes are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic and an efficient teaching plan includes all three modalities.

Basic Movements
Don’t neglect the basic movement patterns that are involved in pitching and baseball in general.  All too often emphasis is placed on getting players’ arms in shape, but no attention is paid to preparing the rest of their bodies for the sport. Baseball pitching requires fundamental movements such as stepping, lunging, squatting, twisting, and balancing. Most kids are getting enough of these movements just playing at school, but if you feel your child needs more exercise to prepare for the baseball season, get them active with these fundamental movements.

Warming Up
Make sure to engage in a full body warm-up, not just the throwing arm, before throwing or pitching.  A full body warm-up elevates core body temperature, enhances motor unit excitability, helps maximize active Range of Motion (ROM) and is effective for reducing injuries in all sports. Basically, make them break a sweat before throwing!

Pitch Volume
Pitch volume is a significant factor in the injury of youth pitchers. All Little Leagues appropriately have pitch count rules in place, but pitch volume can be defined as the number of pitches thrown in a season, not just games.  This should include games, pre-game warm-up, scheduled practices as well as unorganized practices with friends and even Mom and Dad!  Several studies have confirmed that there was a 35% increase in elbow pain in athletes aged 9-12 years old who are throwing greater than 75 pitches a game and 600 pitches in a season.  I have not come across studies that attempt to count the number of pitches thrown outside of games and organized practices throughout a full year of baseball competition. Keeping tabs on your child’s pitch volume and encouraging him/her to communicate feeling fatigue and/or pain will help reduce overuse injuries.

Pitch Type
Another main contributor to injury is the pitch type. Several studies have recommended youth baseball pitchers not to throw breaking pitches (curveball and slider). This recommendation is based on the fact that throwing breaking pitches requires increased forearm supination and wrist movement when compared with the fastball.  The difference in hand, wrist and forearm positioning may lead to greater elbow stress and potential injury.  Overall, I recommended that youth baseball pitchers focus on the basic fundamental movements and the mechanics of pitching (balance point, stride, throwing elbow height, follow through).   After mastery of these fundamentals, focus on fastball pitching mechanics followed by change-up pitching mechanics. Both pitches should be executed with accuracy before introducing curveballs or sliders.

Resistance Training
Resistance training may reduce the risk of injury in youth sports by changing the size, density and mechanical properties of connective tissue structures.  (Marsh, 2010)  Other benefits of resistance training include recruitment and activation of muscles and enhanced coordination.   Strengthening muscles and connective tissues also allows for increased forces that athletes are capable of sustaining, reducing the risk of injury. The muscles of the trunk are particularly important in pitching. The trunk is where the force generated by the legs is transferred to the throwing arm and ball to maximize pitching efficiency and velocity.
Remember Little Leaguers are just kids.  They need to learn how to play the game and how to interact and work with teammates.  Above all, keep them safe and encourage them to have fun.

Darrin Marsh, PT, ATC, CSCS, Department of Physical Therapy, McCarter Health Center, Parkensburg, West Virginia. “Little League Elbow: Risk Factors and Prevention.” December 2010 Strength and Conditioning Journal

Stability and Mobility: Keys to the Proper Golf Swing.

11 Jan

Stability: The ability of the body to remain unchanged or aligned in the presence of external forces or changes.

Mobility: The ability of the body to perform movement.

These two words are the key to developing a proper golf swing.  During the golf swing your body is continually changing from a stable joint to a mobile joint.  These changes are what help provide the mechanics for the best golf swing.  Stability and Mobility can also be classified as strength and flexibility, which is why making sure you are both strong and flexible will not only improve your golf swing and score, but will also lessen the likely hood of injury.

An exercise to improve strength and flexibility:

The lunge stance with rotation is one of many exercises that can be performed using cable machines.  In this exercise, instability is created with a lunge stance, and trying to maintain that position while performing trunk mobility helps improve stability.  If you don’t have the stability to get into a lunge stance immediately, start by putting your feet into a wide squat stance and work yourself into the lunge position.  Check this link for a video of the movement.

INVIGORATE and ENJOY Your Golf Game.

13 Oct

Golf is a game that requires strength, flexibility, stamina, and a mental steel trap. Knowing that golf requires these attributes and obtaining them are quite different.  For individuals who have the game of golf nailed down, we call them professionals.  The rest of us are out there to enjoy nature, get some exercise, hang out with friends, and have fun!  Now, I would be willing to bet that a number of golfers start a round without having done much more of a warm up other than tie their shoes.  A proper warm up is important to both invigorating and enjoying your golf game whether you walk or ride in a cart.  The physical demands of the golf swing are stressful.  The benefits of a proper warm up allow you to: a) be at peak performance from the first hole, and b) lessen the potential for injury.  You do not need to spend 30 minutes prior to your tee time warming up; here are some simple exercises that can be done in less than 5 minutes.

•    Leg swings – use your club, a post, cart or a tree to stabilize and assist you.  Move the leg forward and backward increasing your range of motion as you start to loosen up.  Click here to view the movement.

•    Lateral or side-to-side leg swings – face your club/cart, etc., and swing the leg in front of your body, side to side, increasing range of motion and speed as you warm up.  Click here to view the movement.

•    Upper body exercises – start by holding your driver or adjustable ball retriever at opposite ends.  With straight arms move club from waist, to above head, to behind body as far as comfortable.  Bring the club back to the front and repeat the movement.  Try to increase the range of motion behind the head each time.

•    Figure 8 movements – starting with the club in front of the body and move it around the head, behind the body, back around the head and back to your starting position.  Repeat the movement working on fluidity of motion.  Repeat the same movement in the opposite direction.

•    Lastly, hold the club overhead and perform a squat movement.  Try to keep the club in a fixed position and squat as low as possible.  Perform these exercises for 10-15 repetitions.

The next phase to invigorating and enjoying your golf game is just that, to ENJOY it.  While there are some serious golfers looking to take the title of every round, many of us are weekend warriors, or once or twice a week players.  Trying your hardest and becoming a better player are positive goals.  However, become really good at something you only do once a week generally doesn’t happen.  When a few bad shots ruin a person’s round, and they become that person you don’t want to be around, words flying everywhere not to mention the occasional club hurling through the air, it takes the fun out of the game.

We all know the effects of stress in our life; stress on the golf course is no different.  Don’t let bad shots affect your golf game and the others around you. Be focused, concentrate on the shot at hand and do the best you can.  Also, slow down a bit.  Take in and enjoy your surroundings.  If you hit a bad shot try to get it out of your mind so it doesn’t influence your subsequent shot.  Individuals that seem to be in control, who are not stressed, and appear to be enjoying what they are doing are the ones who walk away from the activity wanting to come back again.  Remember golf is a game, so enjoy it.

Physical Activity and Sport

5 May

Back when we all went to school, physical education was a mandatory component of our education.  While that is not the case today, which saddens me on a number of levels thatI’ll address in a moment, I’m not sure it’s an entirely bad thing.  The physical education we received was, to my memory anyway, largely sport-related. . . badminton, softball, kickball. . . and there were always kids that did really well and others not so much.  This is true of all subjects and is what makes us a diverse and thriving population; some are inclined artistically, some mathematically, etc.  As we move through school and into life, we naturally gravitate towards our areas of interest, which again, is a good thing.  Trouble may come, however, when we gravitate too far from the areas that don’t come as naturally or aren’t as interesting, especially, to my bias, when it comes to physical activity.

What was your experience in phys ed?  Was it fun and stress relieving?  Was it anxiety producing and isolating?  My hypothesis is that the experiences children have with physical activity shape their relationship to physical activity as adults.  Those that felt uncomfortable, uncoordinated or otherwise out of place are likely to have a negative association with physical activity for ever more, making it that much harder to participate in when it’s no longer ‘mandatory’.

Today, physical activity is being de-emphasized in school due to budget.  The funny thing about that is that funding is often tied to academic performance and every study I have ever read links physical activity to improved academic performance.  Additionally, and please excuse the preachiness here, school is about more than the required content, it is about learning the social and life skills necessary to lead a healthy and productive life.  One might argue that kids are encouraged to participate in sport, which is all well and good, but in addition to my statement above about the less athletically inclined, participation in sport has become a ‘necessity’ to look ‘well-rounded’ and not the release that it once was.   The message to our children is that taking care of their self is less important than how they perform, that managing stress is something that you ‘get around to’ after you’ve done the ‘really’ important work of the day.  What price will they and society in general pay for this in the future?  We are the people setting the priorities so the real question here is, how do we prioritize physical activity in our lives?  How can we set a better example for the next generation to follow?

Making Exercise a Sport

5 May

Crossfit Games 2010 Norcal Sectionals where FIT Trainers, Jimmy and Rick, Competed

Physical activity and exercise are interchangeable phrases, but sport is defined as: an individual or group competitive activity involving physical exertion or skill, governed by rules, and sometimes engaged in professionally (often used in the plural).  Physical activity is the goal for health and well-being but motivation can often be a challenge so why not look to sport for the inherent motivation it provides?

Being a part of a team, the motivation that comes from trying to make yourself better, the satisfaction derived from supporting others to do the same . . .these are all benefits traditionally been reserved to organized sport but thanks to Crossfit, every and any individual who wants to stay or get in shape has access to them.  Participating in Crossfit is different from going to the gym to get a workout, it is the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.  The workout of the day is not just about how well you do, it’s about supporting or inspiring those around you, it’s about pushing yourself to try your hardest and do your best.  Like taking up any new sport, it can feel awkward at first leading to uncertainty, but then you chat with a more seasoned Crossfitter and learn that they too were once like you.

Greg Glassman, founder of Crossfit, describes it like this: In implementation, CrossFit is, quite simply, a sport—the “sport of fitness.” We’ve learned that harnessing the natural camaraderie, competition, and fun of sport or game yields an intensity that cannot be matched by other means. Using whiteboards as scoreboards, keeping accurate scores and records, running a clock, and precisely defining the rules and standards for performance, we not only motivate unprecedented output but derive both relative and absolute metrics at every workout; this data has important value well beyond motivation.

The Crossfit principle is competing against yourself.  It’s about self-improvement and mastery of skills.  It’s about practicing skills so you can be better than you were the day before. Like any team sport, tt’s not just about how well you do, it’s about supporting your teammates and being part of their success.  The thing most people seek from team participation, aside from the sport itself, is the camaraderie and community among teammates . . . if this is something you are seeking, and looking to try a new ‘sport’, why not drop in to a crossfit class and give the sport of fitness a try?