Are You Strong Enough?
I had an epiphany during a conversation with one of our members the other day after one of her many trips to physical therapy. When I asked her what she was doing in PT, she said exercises to strengthen her knee. I bet that I have a dozen conversations a month that are eerily similar to this one (although the body parts may differ) but this particular time I had a revelation: “You belong to a gym and you are paying more money to perform strength training somewhere else!?!”. This particular member is very representative of our membership as a whole – energetic, enthusiastic and extremely active. She takes Afterburn 3 to 4 times a week and enjoys 1 to 2 days of doubles tennis along with riding her bike and taking long walks. Also like many of our members, years of activity have caused the injuries to start piling up. The most obvious behavior she shares with the rest of our members? No Strength Training!
I have noticed that there appear to be two main reasons why people avoid strength training. The first is that women think they are going to look like men. Well, I have news for you girls, unless you are taking anabolic steroids and are willing to dedicate several hours a day to lifting heavy weights, it’s not going to happen. The overwhelming majority of you just don’t have the right hormone profile for that to be a concern. The other reason people give is that classes are just more fun. I get it. There’s the music and people and energy – it’s like a party! Hey, vacation is a lot more fun than working but you can’t take a trip without putting in time at the office. Personally, I think the biggest problem is that most people don’t really understand what we mean when we say “Strength Training”. They think it means doing a bunch of single-joint, isolation exercises like a bodybuilder or lifting massive amounts of weight. So maybe we need to talk about what “strength” actually is.
From the moment you were born you started to use basic, fundamental human movement patterns. Things like crawling, squatting, hip hinging, stepping, pushing, pulling, etc. These are what we call Functional Movements. As we age and suffer injuries or sit at desks all day or perform the same movements repeatedly for hours on end (pronounced “Jogging” or “Spinning”) we start to lose our ability to perform these basic movements. Noted Physical Therapists Grey Cook and Lee Burton (founders of the Functional Movement Screen) place individuals’ movements into one of four categories:
- Functional, no pain
- Functional, pain
- Non-Functional, no pain
- Non-Functional, pain
The majority of the folks that come to the gym fall into category 3. That is, they have no injury but they are poor movers. The problem is that one of the main causes of injury is a lack of good functional movement. Poor movement patterns lead to compensation. Repeated compensation over time eventually leads to acute and chronic overuse injuries. This is where strength training comes in!
Now, I spent many years working in Physical Therapy as an Athletic Trainer and more than most I realize it’s value. Some of the brightest people I know are PT’s. Many have been and continue to be my friends and mentors. I think Physical Therapy is an extremely important part of the rehabilitation process. But I think what is happening with strength training (or lack thereof) is a microcosm of the healthcare system as a whole. As a nation we continue to be mostly reactive instead of proactive when it comes to our health. Certainly we are a much more educated society in terms of eating organic foods, avoiding pesticides, the dangers of smoking, etc. However, many people fail to realize that the reason a lot of injuries occur in the first place is a lack of strength, and so we set-up this continuous cycle of exercise participation, injury and rehabilitation.
One thing I learned from legendary coach Vern Gambetta many years ago is “Postural alignment and stability is the key to all training”. Essentially, can you perform a movement while maintaining perfect posture? If not, then you lack either the proper mobility (range of motion) or stability (strength) to be successful in that movement. So how do we improve? We strengthen functional movements by training for the appropriate amount of stability and mobility! That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to lift something heavy. Instead, what you need to do is improve your movement patterns first . When movement quality is good, then we can start to add an external load and progress at an appropriate rate. I promise you that if you would spend just two days a week improving your foundational movements through strength training, you would need a lot less rehab.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with Diane Malaspina about the Yoga Therapeutics Series she will be conducting here at Wareing’s. While it was my first chance to have a real, free flowing conversations with Diane, many of you probably know Diane from Tech & Restore and the some of the other yoga classes she has taught here at Wareing’s. Just recently, she has also conducted Yoga Teacher Certification Programs. The following is a transcript of that conversation.
What is your motivation?
I love to hear about people’s workouts. I think it’s great to share with others what you are doing in the gym or on the road. Quite often I can pick up some new things to try myself, or share with friends and clients. However, for me the most important thing isn’t what you did but why? Training is not the end – it is a means to an end. If you don’t have an “end” in mind, then most likely your training is either all over the place or without any variety at all. Put another way, goal-oriented training is always more effective than “What do I feel like doing today?”
We wanted to give a great, big shout-out to our very own Jeremy Molinar
for placing an outstanding 2nd place in this year’s annual Virginia Police Work Dog Association Iron Dog competition. This year’s Iron dog was held at Smith Mountain Lake in Franklin County, Va.
The Iron Dog is a competition for Police and Military K9 handlers from all around the state. This year, there were close to 40 K9 teams participating. “Essentially” Jeremy told us, ” it’s a cross country/mud run that you have to complete with your K9 partner”.
I am amazed by social media. What was once a great way to reconnect with old friends and share pictures with distant relatives, is now an internet flea market. And how does Facebook know that I’m a 45-year-old bald man with a wife and three kids? Kinda scary! I am also amazed at what people are willing to share. From far right and left political ideas to passionate stances on vaccinations to very personal medical issues, it seems that nothing is out-of-bounds when it comes to an internet rant.
Over the last few months I have seen a growing number of Amway-esque products being hawked by my Facebook friends. You know the names – Lue La Rue, Plexus, Advocare, Shakeology, etc. I am particularly fascinated by the nutritional supplements. Nothing against any of you that are really into Advocare or Plexus – I’m sure they are fine products – but I think you guys are missing the bigger picture. The reason that these products make you feel so incredible is that most of your diets really suck. If I take someone who is deficient in several key nutrients and then give them a supplement that complements those deficiencies, they are going to act like what I gave them is the Fountain of Youth! There is a much more efficient way to get the same feeling – stop eating crap and eat real food (it wouldn’t hurt to stop smoking and/or drinking to excess either!). When you get nutrients from food you get much better absorption of those nutrients because of the form they are supplied in and the slower processes of digestion and metabolism. Liquid nutrients speed through the digestive tract and are not as readily absorbed – which means you have some really expensive urine!
Supplement: something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole.
Now what most folks need to do in order to improve their health is usually quite simple – that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily easy, but it is simple. The typical American diet is abundant in processed foods, hidden sugars and saturated fat while deficient in many key vitamins and minerals. Combine a poor diet with a lack of sleep and a lack of adequate hydration and it’s a recipe for feeling lousy (i.e. sick and tired). Before you shell out $60 a month on a nutritional supplement, I want you to try this:
Eat a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits everyday.
Drink at least 64oz of water everyday.
Turn off all electronics at least 1 hour before bedtime and get 8 hours of sleep everyday.
If you do these three things consistently, you will be amazed at how much better you feel in just a few weeks. I’m not saying there is no place for supplementation. There are many instances where nutritional supplements would provide great benefits for certain individuals. My point is that if you eat junk, don’t sleep and don’t drink water, then spending money on expensive shakes is not the first step. Fix your diet first. Supplement when you need a little more help.
Just my two cents.
Chris Ullom, Director of Training, Wareing’s Gym
The following is a conversation I had with Wareing’s Gym Member Evan Martin following his attendance of our 1st Official Hosting of a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Class for beginners this past Friday, April 22nd with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt and 2 Champion Professor Diego Bispo. As both a former wrestler and member who is well immersed in Wareing’s unique culture of fitness and community, I thought it would be a snazzy thing to pick his brain and see how he felt about the class.
Carlos: So what’d you think?
Evan: I definitely enjoyed it. It was a great atmosphere, first of and all around. You got to meet some people from the gym that you see in here every day but haven’t necessarily talked to or gotten to know.
C: So you did? You got to interact with some other members you wouldn’t normally have?
C: That’s interesting, when we were beta testing Martin Rooney’s Training For Warriors fitness system at one point, one of the cool things we noticed was just that. How it got people interacting and building relationships with other people as opposed to with a piece of equipment. Even today there is a small group of members who started training together for TFW, but who didn’t really interact before that. I mean, they would see one another on the gym floor, and maybe give one another a, “ Hey. What’s up”, but they didn’t know each other. By name even. Then we started training together and you just naturally form those bonds.
E: Which is awesome, because you get to meet a bunch of people you see in here, especially myself who comes in at such a differing range of times that I see a lot of different people, and now I got to interact with some of them. Got to meet some people outside of the gym as well, which was great.
C: Was it intimidating? The actual Brazilian Jiu Jitsu part, that is.
E: Not intimidating at all. Diego couldn’t have been better. He was just so welcoming and, you know, helping people. He couldn’t have been friendlier. I had a great experience with the guy I was training with, Corey. He was extremely helpful. Just wanted to help you learn and make you better, encouraging you to train and workout with them more often.
C: It’s interesting because it’s been my experience that fighters, in any combat sport, tend to be some of the chillest dudes and dudettes, off the mat anyways….
E: Which you think it would be much more difficult to interact with them…
C: Right! …
E: -because of the battle ground and it being a contest, one on one.
C: I think it’s because you get so much out, aggression wise in a constructive and focused manner out on the mat, that then it translates into… you kind of empty yourself of aggression. It definitely makes you appreciate your training sessions more if for no other reason than that.
E: And it’s such a great workout though. I mean physically, it’s so draining. But then mentally it’s so draining too, but it helps you physically and mentally react quicker. In both cases. Thinking of things before they happen, planning on executing moves before their open to you.
C: Having trained BJJ for a couple years a long time ago, I remember how everything seemed to move a lot slower the longer I trained. My mind and body were more relaxed. Now that I have been out for long while and am only getting back into it, I notice that everything is moving a lot faster that it used to before I stopped training.
E: Coming from a wrestling background, there’s definitely more aggression on my side. And then seeing how, you know, qualified guys there who had been training JIu Jitsu for bit of time, I mean you can just see how calm and collected they are throughout the whole process of rolling around.
C: Cool. So you actually saw that in effect?
E: Yeah, definitely. It makes you wanna learn more, do better, and take more time out to actually practice.
C: Funny Because i noticed that about the wrestling guys. The wrestling guys always seem to be the strongest and most explosive of the beginners in BJJ, and I guess you use the term aggressive. I always thought that wrestlers, well, when they decided to go for something, they commit. It’s all or nothing.. a lot of wrestlers are good at not giving you a lot of room to breath or wiggle, they just close in on you. The Jiu Jitsu fighters get there too, but it seems that the BJJ guys tend to do it with more relaxation and seems to throw the wrestlers off a little bit.
E: Yeah. You find that they’re fine being on their backs, and they’re relaxed. You know, grabbing onto the gi and using that for leverage and torque. From a wrestling point of view, all thats foreign but exciting and interesting to study.
C: I know that wrestling is a sport. BJJ is also a sport, but it can be more than…..
E: It can be a philosophy and way of life too, right?
C: Well yeah because of the way in which you begin to perceive conflict, how you react to it, and achieving relaxation while in it, reflecting on whether you helped initiate it or not, and what you can do to avoid or resolve it. As a matter of fact, it actually didn’t start out as a sport at all. Do you think wrestling allows for that as well?
E: I think that it does, you know it depends on the individual’s mindset.. I think that Jiu Jitsu may have more of a philosophy that you would follow, some sort of a credo that they teach. Wrestling is a little bit more diverse…
C: It’s more about what kind of mindset the participant brings to it…
C: Not that you can’t have that kind of mindset, but just that it’s not necessary or a pre-requisite.
C: So tell me, would you do it again?
E: Definitely. I hope that Wareing’s has more of this in the future, and that I can continue to meet more people from the gym and outside of the gym.
C: That’s great. I mean nothing is set in stone until it happens, but both us and Diego are interested in having Jiu Jitsu play a bigger role here at Wareing’s.
E: That would be awesome.
C: Yeah, I just think that he fits in. He’s a highly motivated dude who is passionate about what he does and wants to help people. He’s a hard worker and he feels he can do that with Jiu Jitsu and we believe he can to. A lot of Jiu Jitsu guys that come here from Brazil, they leave their homes with a black belt- that they’ve earned– and a few dollars in their pockets to come here and teach Jiu Jitsu with the idea that they can earn a living doing that and generate enough money from it to sustain a living and raise enough money to travel to tournaments in which they can test their skills. I won’t speak for every Jiu Jitsu instructor out there, but I know that’s Diego. He’s not out to get rich. He’s out to be the best he can be and make everyone around him better in the process. And that’s what we do here at Wareing’s. We do what we do because we love it and we believe we are doing it for all the right reasons.
E: Definitely. Especially as good and as qualified as he is. It’s a breath of fresh air to experience how friendly and kind he is.
C: Well Evan, thanks for taking the time out to speak to me and for sharing your thoughts.
If you’d like to learn more about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, feel free to check out the following links:
For more information on Professor Diego Bispo, click here.