Friday, August 11, 2017

Well, apparently I'm ranting a lot these days...

Hey, kids!  Here I am with another ranty-type post.  I must be in a mood these past few weeks!

Today's rant is about a video that a lot-- and I mean A LOT of people have been tagging me in this week.  I am not going to link to the video because I really don't want to draw more attention to it, so instead I will post a picture of my dog, who has just had a bath, and is not very happy about it but is super cute anyway.

OK.  So in this video, there is a woman who is Olympic lifting.  She doesn't lock out completely on the bar for whatever reason (it could be that the weight was too heavy for her, or it could just be user error-- it happens), and the bar collapses on top of her.  Ouch.  (She is OK, by the way.  Whew.)  

People are passing this thing around like candy, though.  They think it's hilarious.  One person told me that someone had been using it as "proof" that "women can't lift."  This poor woman is being shamed all over the place for a freaking mistake in the gym.

But she's in good company, because I see this happen all the time.  "Gym fail" videos are rampant.  I don't know what it is about the human psyche that makes people love to watch (and laugh at) people injuring themselves, but there it is.  

So what I have to say about this particular video is this:

She made a mistake.

Experienced lifters make mistakes ALL THE TIME.

Guys too.

LOTS of guys.

I have been to more than one powerlifting event where a barbell bounced off someone's neck in a bench press that didn't go as planned, or when a squat went horribly wrong.  In my own gym, I installed safety straps on my rack because I train alone, and one time my knee happened to go out from under me in a squat and I ended up slamming my head on the bottom of the cage with the bar on my neck (I was using a relatively light weight, thank goodness).  

My point is, it happens.  It doesn't mean that people who make mistakes "shouldn't be lifting," or that they are inexperienced or dumb or any of the things people are saying about this woman and others who have had the misfortune to have their accidents caught on video and broadcast to the masses.  It means that weightlifting, in all its glorious forms, carries an inherent risk, and it is one that many of us are willing to take.  All things in life-- and especially a sedentary lifestyle-- carry risks of varying degrees, and it comes down to what we are willing to risk for the lifestyle we choose.  For those of us who love to lift heavy things, we run the risk of tearing a muscle, ligament, or tendon, harming a joint, or dropping something hefty on ourselves.  Fortunately, with good form and good sense, those risks can be minimized, but not eliminated.  

So think about it.  What do you love?  Are you willing to take the risks it entails?  I, for one, intend to keep on doing the strengthy things.  And to that woman in the video, wherever she is, I hope she keeps on doing what she loves and doesn't take the internet frenzy to heart.  And if she is in need of something to improve her mood, here is another picture of my dog, who is in a better mood now because she's getting a belly rub.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dear Vegans

Dear Vegans:

Let me start off by saying that I am vegan.  I have been vegan for 17+ years for moral/animal advocacy reasons, and I am vegan 4 lyfe *flash cool-looking hand sign.*

I appreciate your message of nonviolence and environmental stewardship.  I get it.

Now, having said that, let me now say this:

You're doing it wrong.

Now, I know this is going to piss a lot of people off.  And, of course, this message does not apply to all vegans-- there are a ton of amazing vegans out there who don't portray any of the habits I am about to describe.  But please, I ask you to read this with an open mind and maybe take a step back and see if maybe this might pertain to you in some way, and if perhaps it might make you rethink a few things.  That is all I can possibly expect, and I appreciate your time.

So, here we go.

You are not going to win many friends by shaming them for their own eating habits.  I know that before I went vegan, having people cram animal slaughter videos in my face did nothing but traumatize me, and trying to guilt me for my decidedly nonvegan ways actually pushed me away not only from being vegan, but from associating with other vegans (and to this day, I do not have a lot of vegan friends, although I have a few).

If someone has expressed an interest in cutting down on meat, that is something you can applaud.  It is not something you need to tear down, telling them it isn't enough.  For them, it is a big step, and one that does make a difference.  Embrace it-- don't criticize it.  I know that my journey started with cutting out lobster, then red meat (after years), then chicken (again, after years), and finally going vegan (once again, after years).  You know what made me go vegan?  I didn't understand why eggs and dairy were a moral problem, so (quite tentatively), I asked some vegans about it.  And what they said was, for me, the absolute best thing anyone could have said.  They said, "go do some research and tell us what you find."  So I did.  And that research, that I did on my own terms, was what did it for me.  I thank those vegans.

Please don't make up facts.  Documentaries such as "What The Health" have, admittedly, created some (likely temporary) new vegans.  But it did this based on half-truths.  This is a great article explaining this.  It is quite possible, and preferable, to argue your points using valid science and factual evidence rather than cherrypicked science and pseudoscience.  There are some great reasons to go vegan.  You don't need to make shit up.

And, while we're at it, don't make up words.  Some guy was fighting with nonvegans on a forum, antagonizing them and calling them "carnists."  Dude.  You only made yourself look like an idiot, and no one is going to take anything you have to say seriously.  There are much, much better ways to explain your point.

I love being vegan, and I love what being vegan stands for from an animal and environmental standpoint.  It makes me sad to see vegans work against themselves in an attempt to prove a point.  Do it civilly.  Do it with class.  Do it with FACTS.  And cook them something amazing (or take them to a amazing vegan restaurant, if they are willing).  You'd be surprised how far that can take you.

Now, that being said:

Dear Omnivores,

You're not off the hook.

Telling me my food is gross or "needs meat," joking that a baby cow "looks delicious..."  yeah, that's not winning you any friends, either.  And many of you are just as guilty of spreading nonfacts and propaganda.  I'll get into that in more detail another time, but just realize that all that antagonizing behavior I just chided vegans for-- you're plenty guilty of it, too.  Check yourselves.

If we all could just calm down, check our facts, and try to understand and accept each other, life would be a whole lot more pleasant.  Maybe I'm being a bit naive, thinking that this is a possibility.  After all, we are living in an age in which it is all too easy to troll each other, shame each other, and grab whatever "facts" suit us off the interwebs.

But a girl can dream, right?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Quick Rant

I am not one to disparage anyone else's methods-- I believe that if you're doing something you enjoy, and it is working for you, all is well.  However, when it comes to Tracy Anderson and programs like hers, I have to speak out for the following reasons:

1) she is trying to push her unproven, nonsensical theories as some kind of science/fact

2) she is essentially pushing an extreme eating disorder(600 calories/day is an anorexic pattern)-- and making bank on it.  Having grown up around eating disorders, let me just say this is not a game, and could turn deadly.

Do what works for you, but please remember that if it causes your health to decline, it is not working for you--  no matter how "small" you get.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Death By Training

First and foremost, I need to acknowledge that I have been extremely bad at keeping up this blog. I really have no excuse. If it helps, though, I did get an article published with the Strength and Conditioning Journal earlier this year (planning another as we speak), and my long-promised cookbook is currently being organized and edited and will hopefully be ready to go by end of summer. I've also been writing a ton of music lately, something I haven't felt inspired to do in ages, and that's been awesome. So...forgive me? Pretty please?

In any case, better late than never. Today I got inspired to post because of our friend, Social Media. Social Media is awesome in many ways. It connects us to people we may never have been able to connect with otherwise, lets us learn and discover new things, and helps us disseminate information to large groups of people quickly and easily.

Those things can be great. They can also be... erm... problematic. Because while good information is awesome, bad information can be extremely detrimental.

Today, I saw that a well-known and very impressive trainer/athlete posted the following:

"If you don't feel DEAD by the end of your training, did you even workout?"

I get that this is the philosophy of many trainers and athletes, and I get that it works for some. This really seems to be the norm amongst the fitness people I have observed, and seems to be the expectation in the clients who approach me. The assumption appears to be: if your body parts still work and your clothes aren't soaked through and you don't want to puke after you're done training, you haven't done it right.

However, I personally do not ascribe to the theory that you have to feel absolutely trashed in order to get great results from your training. I believe that once in a while, it can have some benefits, but done habitually, I'd say that that sort of training can be detrimental for a number of reasons. You ready for some sciency crap? Here we go.

1) Training to failure has limited, if any, performance benefits over not training to failure. In a meta-analysis of 8 studies, Davies, et al. (2015) noted a statistically significant improvement in strength in non-failure training individuals over those training to failure. Izquierdo-Garraben, et al. (2009) also note:

"once a given ‘‘optimal’’ volume is reached, a further increase in training volume does not yield more gains and can even lead to reduced performance in experience resistance-trained subjects." (p. 1197)

There may be some slight advantages for muscle hypertrophy for those training to failure (Nóbrega & Libardi, 2016), and it appears that it can be beneficial or even sometimes necessary when performing low-intensity repetitions (Nóbrega & Libardi, 2016) but for the most part, training to failure does not appear necessary for performance gains.

2) Training to failure can produce less-than-optimal hormonal responses, at least for the short term. Consistently training to failure or exhaustion can lead to decreases in resting testosterone (Willardson, et al, 2010). In an 11 week study performed on 42 physically active men, Izquierdo, et al. (2006) noted that individuals not training to failure had lower resting cortisol and higher resting testosterone than individuals training to failure. The failure group also demonstrated a decrease in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), which is a hormone involved in muscle building. In this study, the failure group had some beneficial responses in localized endurance in the bench press, but for the most part the non-failure group was superior to the failure group in improvements to strength and power output. It is important to note that these hormonal responses are acute, not chronic-- meaning that they appear to be short-term. So this may or may not have any major effects for the long term, but it is interesting to note, anyway.

3) Rest and recovery are necessary for performance and hypertrophy gains! In a study by Schoenfeld, et al (2016) (Yeah, that's my brother, yo!) longer rest periods (in this case, 3 minutes over 1 minute) were associated with better strength and conditioning gains in younger, resistance-trained men. Personally, this makes all kinds of sense to me-- you will generally not be able to properly perform a lift of any significance if you aren't well-rested. Trying to push through multiple sets of heavy training without enough rest will usually either result in not being able to complete the lift, or in completing the lift poorly.

This reminds me of an extreme example-- several years ago, an elite Crossfit athlete was paralyzed from the waist down after performing multiple sets of complex lifts to exhaustion without adequate rest in between. Unable to complete the lift, the athlete lost control of the barbell and ended up with a severed spine. Now, I repeat-- this is an EXTREME EXAMPLE. Chances are, you're not going to sever your spine. But if you want to get your best lifts in, resting adequately first will produce optimal results.

Which reminds me...

4) Training to failure may increase risk of injury. Training to failure has been noted as an injury risk factor (Nóbrega & Libardi, 2016; Willardson, et al., 2007; Stone, et al., 1996). I think it's important to note, though, that there do not appear to be any studies that actually demonstrate increased injury due to training to failure. That being said, the logic is this: if form degrades, risk of injury tends to increase. Form degradation tends to occur when training to exhaustion, so the potential for injury (or overuse, if constant high repetitions are used consistently) increases. Does this mean that training to failure will cause injury? Not necessarily, and the science has not proven this to be the case. However, given that training to failure does not appear necessary for optimal gains in strength and hypertrophy, I'd personally take the less risky path.

So, to answer the question posed by the trainer/athlete that inspired this blog:

If you don't feel dead by the end of your training, well, yeah. You still worked out. If you trained to fatigue, but still were able to complete good reps, chances are, you did just fine and will see great results even if you came out of it alive.

Did he even train, bro?

Questions? Comments? Post 'em here!