New Job? Nope, My Next Career

Part of what I like most about Rachel is the way she seems to energize and drive many people to achieve a little more of their potential. I am no exception in this and when we moved in together in August she immediately started sending me help wanted ads for jobs that she thought that I may like to do.

One in particular caught my eye and I applied for the position. It was for the operations manager role at a company call SST in Burlington. I hadn’t heard of them before but Rachel was very familiar with them through one of her professors at Sheridan college. SST, or Sport Specific Training, is a straight and conditioning center. They have been successfully training young athletes for the last ten years and their approach is rather different from the method used at the fitness clubs that I am more accustomed to.

I submitted my resume and got an interview a few days later.

The facility is small, about 5000 square feet, and doesn’t have any cardio machines. They have a lot of equipment that I have never seen anywhere else other than in the demonstration photos that appear with some of the t-nation articles (sleds, fire hoses, tires, etc…). It is not a bells and whistles place, it’s more of a blood and guts training center. This is part of why I love it – people come there to work hard and they leave quickly because there is no reason to stay. They have a lot of signed pictures on the walls of different level athletes who have trained there and achieved more success. People go to SST to get better results on the playing field, track, court, wherever.

The interview process was grueling because I had to meet with all of the key leadership figures to ensure that we would be able to work together. It took about 2 weeks and each step drew me in deep because it was evident that each member of the team was picked for their specific talent and unique personality. They were looking for a career minded person and not someone who as seeking a short term job. Given that I knew nothing about the company before I submitted my resume, I was able to synthesize and add to my understanding with each interview. In the end when I was offered the position I was ecstatic because I knew the fit was right for me and I knew that I was the right person for the job.

The only downside is that my blog is suffering significantly because I love working at SST. I am up early and really eager to get to work. I leave work late, workout and come home to eat. Rachel gets home about an hour later around 10 PM, when we’ll chat for a few minutes until she opens the books to study before calling it a night near midnight.

I wouldn’t change anything about my life right now but I do look forward to becoming good enough at my job so I can devote a little more time to again. In time I know my site will begin to see the impact of all the new experiences that SST is facilitating in the form of original content.

New Challenges – Moving In With Rachel – Month 1

Rachel and I decided to move in together and we found ourselves a small bachelor apartment in Oakville. If you have never lived with a partner before, here are some of the things that I’ve learned about it in the first month.

1) We are different people and each have a unique experience of reality. We view the world in different terms because we have different DNA and have had different experiences. Neither is right or wrong and both are equally valid.

2) Clearly define your expectations and responsibilities in the house work, finances and behaviour. Make a list of chores and pick the ones you like. Make a list of bills, due dates, amounts required from each person and the date they are due. Tell the other what type of morning person you are, how you start and wrap up your day, how you unwind when you get home and what type of stuff makes your life easier.

3) The toilet seat is not to remain up EVER.

4) Ask for what you need when you need it. “Please help me with these dishes, I need your help making the bed.” Seems so obvious that it doesn’t need to be said but I found myself wondering why Rachel was trying to bug me by leaving a wet towel on the bed after her shower. Turns out that she had no idea that she was doing it and has stopped since I asked her not to.

5) The right way to do something is the way you do it, so when you don’t agree on what the right way to do something is, do it either way because both work.

6) Call them on their crap immediately and make sure they do the same with your crap.

7) When you give them feedback (are trying to get them to alter their behaviour a little) always let them know how you felt. It places the responsibilty on you for feeling the particalar way and it increases the likelihood that they’ll remain open because they will not feel attacked.

8) Choose your battles and compromise on the things that truely do not matter to you.

9) Some behaviours won’t change so if you can do it in 5 seconds, consider that an option before talking to them about it again.

8 Mistakes I see In The Gym Everyday

I’ve spend a lot of time at the gym over the last few years and I’ve noticed a few things that people do frequently that hinder their progress. The follow are 8 of the simplest to fix:

1) Lifting the weight not lifting the lift. I have no problem with power lifters using whatever means necessary to get the weight up, their sport is lifting as much weight as possible and there is a special technique to it, one that is very different from a fitness or body building lift. But this type of lifting isn’t the most effective way to get fit or grow muscle. In fact, they do whatever they can to make lifting that weight as easy as possible, the opposite of what body builders and fitness participants should be doing. If you are working a leg exercise and your shoulders are hurting, take some weight off so you are able to feel the effort in your legs.

2) Not working out very hard. Intensity is key to getting quick results at the gym. It’s fine to be social while you’re there, just try your best to keep your heart rate and effort up. If you do more talking than lifting, consider finding somewhere else to hang out.

3) Avoiding power lifting movements. Power lifting moves are great for teaching you how to control your nervous system and coordinate the impulses needed to fire almost all of the muscle fibers in a muscle. In fact, you’re not likely to be able to learn this any other way. Lots of practice can teach you how to fire them but going down that avenue is going to take years vs. months. It is irrelevant that their isn’t a direct carryover from power cleans to pull-ups, because the portion of the brain that controls and coordinates high levels of muscle recruitment is going to develop from power cleans which is going to make pull-ups easier.

4) Working a very short portion of a lifts range of motion. Unless you have an injury, warm-up well and perform the entire range of motion with EVERY lift; I’ll give you a shorter range on the last unspotted rep of a heavy set, but that’s it. Lowering 80 pound dumbbells to elbows at 90 degrees and pressing them up again is exactly 50% of a rep. Would you come 50% of the way to the gym for your workout? I’ve seen people “press” 225 of 5 reps like this – you can tell who these people are because their chests are tight and their shoulders are rounded forward when they walk through the gym looking to see who saw them perform their killer set. The other great example of this behaviour is the 1/8th leg press when the person loads the machine with every plate in the gym and moves it 3 inches. At least in this case, if they load and unload the machine themselves, they are getting a decent workout.

5) Coming to the gym instead of getting another hobby. There is a limit to how much you can workout and still continue to grow. You’ll continue to burn calories the more you work, but there is a finite amount of micro-damage that you can do to your body before you start running into problems or stop being able to lift with enough intensity to do any damage. You’ve done way too much a few set BEFORE this point. While you will keep growing, you’ll not be growing as fast as you could be had you performed just enough work.

6) Not having any goals, long, short or immediate. Sometimes when I ask people what they are hoping to achieve by being at the gym they know right away and tell me, I want to lose some weight and build some muscle, I want to look good at the cottage this summer, I like the way it feels when or after I workout,… But a lot of the time, people don’t know why they are there. They’re doing the same exercises the same way and with the same weight that they always do and getting exactly the same thing out of it as they always do. When your sole reason for being there inertia, it maybe time to talk to a trainer about some goals.

7) Not trying anything new. Most people hate telling me what their favorite exercise is that they started doing in the last 6 weeks. For me it would be overhead barbell shrugs. The 6 weeks before that it would have been single arm corner barbell press and before that it would have been the agility ladder. Wide grip dead lifts on a step, glut-ham raises, front squats and, for a time, upper-pec cable crossovers would have been mentioned. The workouts I do now have some of the same core compound exercises as the ones I did a year ago, but a lot of the other exercises have been replaced with new ones. My strength on most lifts has improved marginally in that year but given that there are about 15 or 20 new lifts included in that, I believe I have progressed. Irrelevant of the numbers, my body looks better than it did a year ago because the new movements have added mass in places that were not getting worked before.

8) Never thinking about why you are doing what you are doing. I don’t mean goals here, I mean things like not questioning the wisdom of why you don’t go all the way to the ground with squats, why fat makes you fat, why you will never grow on a reduced or low carbohydrate diet, why machines are not as good as free weights or why doing cardio will stop you from growing. There are 1000’s of these pieces of wisdom out there that have been repeated so much that they are now assumed to be facts. Just question yourself every now and then to determine why your are doing what you are doing

Deconstructing Paul Chek – T-nation Article

Deconstructing Paul Chek by t-nations by Chris Shugart is a bullet point recap of a 4 hour conversation with the therapist / trainer / coach. He has been at it for a very long time and remains in the best shape of his life.

Personally I like the holistic nature of his approach; even though I’m not religious, I can see the value of including all aspects on ones identity into their health and fitness development plan. He draws a distinction between the different religious views that people hold but only in so far as to say that each is a very important aspect of the individual.

• It’s only through a healthy body that you can have a functional, rational mind. Aristotle made his philosophy students workout with the Olympic wresting team. One of the main reasons I train my body is so that my mind works effectively.

• Toxicity means you’re bringing in more toxins from the outside than you can release. You can’t have a functional detoxification system unless you have a functional digestive system. Anyone who’s eating cheap food is likely to have a digestive system that isn’t working.

• If you don’t want to have problems, eat real food. Stop eating all this cheap crap. I’ve had multi-millionaires and world-class professional athletes in my office tell me that organic food is too expensive.I walk them to the window and point to their $140,000 sports car and say, “Eat that fu#ker then! Because when you die they aren’t going to bury that son of a bitch with you!” It’s just a matter of getting your priorities right. The more toxic your body is, the lower your quality of life is.

• We have a tremendous dehydration problem today. The only thing that substitutes for water is water. When you’re drinking water you’re actually drinking nature’s most powerful detoxification agent. The best solution for pollution is dilution. And that means water, not tea, not soda pop, not orange juice… water!

It will probably take a few reads for everything to sink in. Even if you don’t agree with all that he says, try and let his words impact you if for no other reason than he’s 44 and still stronger than everyone you know.

Anti-aging Drugs And Performance

Drug Test – A Cautionary Tale is a first hand account to see the impact that taking anti-aging drugs has on long distance cycling and performance. Over an 8 month period, and a price tag of over $7000, the author uses a combination of human growth hormone, EPO, deca and testosterone and finds the boost he was looking for.

The entire experience was done under doctor supervision and is completely legal in the US.

… I remained skeptical about all the drugs until March 29, when I rode an event along the central coast of California, the Solvang Double Century, at what for me was a fast and hard pace, finishing in around 11.5 hours. About ten hours in, it dawned on me that something was definitely happening. Sure, I’d been training hard, but I’d done enough of that to know what to expect. All around me were riders—good, strong riders—who looked as worn out as you’d expect after ten hours in the saddle. I was tired, but I felt curiously strong, annoyingly talkative and fresh, eager to hammer the last 40 miles.

The last time I’d ridden 200 miles, I felt awful the next day, like I’d been hit by a truck. After the Solvang race I woke up and felt hardly a touch of soreness. I also felt like I could easily ride another 200, and I realized that I’d entered another world, the realm of instant recovery. I’ll be frank: It was a reassuring kind of world, and I could see why people might want to stay there.

When I checked in with the good doctor soon after the race, he wasn’t surprised about what I’d experienced. “With your hematocrit levels higher, you don’t produce as much lactic acid, which means you can ride harder, longer, with less stress. The growth hormone and testosterone help you recover faster, since you’re stronger to start with and recover more quickly. All those little muscle tears repair much more quickly.”

Recap Of July 8 Hour & 5 Things To Be Faster Next Race

On Saturday I rode my third race of the year, Dukes 8 Hour at Hardwood Hills. Wes and I entered “East Coast Riders” in the 2 Person Male Tag Team Combined Age 79 and Under category. The coarse was 9.5 Km and we finished 13 laps. We placed 14th of 28 and I’m happy with how it went.

This was my first Tag Team race and my body held up fairly well for my 7 laps with ~30 minutes of recover / rest time between laps. My times were fairly consistent but did start to drop towards the end.

In my last 5 Things I’ll Do To Be Faster Next Race I mentioned tire selection, improved hydration, stand up in the single track sections, faster transitions, and don’t carry a camel pack as what I needed to work on. Addressing these things paid off. I’m really happy that I switch to treaded tired because they didn’t hurt my climbing or sprints in any noticeable way and they gave me the confidence to ride faster in the flowing sections.

5 Things I’ll Do To Be Faster Next Race:

1) Simulate and practice race behavior in some of my training rides. Racing is way more intense than training because I feel like there is something more on the line. When you feel that engaged, it’s easy to repeat “faster” a couple of 1000 times during the race to maintain your focus. I don’t get the same intensity from training rides in the trails. Maybe I can learn how to control the race response and teach my body to find the higher intensity during training rides by practicing getting into this mind set.

2) Fix gears, change cables, true wheels. Make sure you have confidence in the bike and the gear you are in. Hoping the bike is in the right gear is a lousy way to go through a race. I’d sooner not think about it at all and just peddle as hard as I can.

3) Go faster in the down hill single track. There was improvement in this area over last race, but I’m still losing too much time. I’m not entirely sure why I’m not going faster. I think I may be getting a little scared.

4) Take creatine before and during the race. I stopped taking it for the June 24 hour race because I thought it might be better to ride lighter. Stopping it did help me get to 165, but I lost the kick that it offers you. It gives you more power during the first 10 seconds of effort and it increases your ability to recover that power during short periods of recovery. I race better when I’m taking it so I’m going to keep doing it.

5) Drink more water. I was better hydrated during this race but I lost interest in drinking water between the 6th and 7th lap – usually an indication that I’ve become dehydrated. As the day goes on, your focus tend to slip a little and you end up letting certain things slide. Fluid consumption should never be one of these things. I held on longer this race, but I really need to see it through, even in the car on the way home.

The next event is Chico Racings Hot August Nights the final 24 hour relay of the season. It is my favorite event and tends not be be as busy as the Summer Solstice.

5 Things I’ll Do To Be Faster Next Race

We had our first 24 hour race last weekend. We placed 22nd out of 52 teams. Individually we rode well, but we lost 2 laps because of mechanical failures – a broken rear derailer drop-out and a broken chain. This was the first race in over two years were we’ve had any issues, so we are not too upset about it. Personally, I have a bit of work to do to attain my full speed potential.

Keys to improving my time for the next race:

1) Tire selection – I need to ride a softer compound treaded tire. For the last few events I have ridden a road slick. It makes for very fast acceleration in the straight portions of the course, but due to poor cornering and single track speed, they cost me dearly in these cross country races. Estimated time saving 30 seconds to 2 minutes per lap; maybe more during the night laps.

2) Improved hydration – I need to increase that amount of water I drink in the days leading up to the race. I didn’t suffer too much because of this, but any boost I can get will help me dramatically.

3) Stand up in the single track sections. You carry a lot more momentum when you are standing up and you have more agility. Plus, if you are good at finding the right gear, you accelerate faster when you stand. Estimated time saving 30 seconds to 2 minutes per lap.

4) Faster transitions. I need to find an easy access place to put the time chip so I don’t have to dig for it at the end of the lap when I’m exhausted or take my time putting it away at the beginning of the lap. Estimated time saving = 30 seconds per lap.

5) Don’t carry a camel pack. I don’t drink during the ride, so I don’t need water. Since I’ll scrap any lap that I have a real mechanical issue on, there isn’t any need to carry anything with me other than a tube and some tire irons. The goal is to ride fast and carrying a 3 pound pack isn’t going to make that happen. Estimated time saving = 1 to 2 minutes per lap.

How To Enjoy RPM If You Are An All Terrain Athlete

Some road, triathlon and mountain bike riders don’t take RPM classes because they don’t like them. I used to be one of these people. Our biggest concern with RPM is that there are a lot of times when you are not working very hard. We’re working on our cardio base by holding a steady heart rate and the RPM class has the participants HR going up and down over and over again. We don’t see it as valuable training for us because we need to ride flat road for hours.

Even though I teach RPM, I still understand this concern and it is legitimate. As an athlete you have workout parameters that need to be followed in order for your training to progress. Unless you have an idea of what the instructor is going to ask you to do next, you cannot adjust your workout on the fly to satisfy these parameters. The outcome is a lost workout and a bad taste for RPM.

This article will outline what RPM is so you training athletes can plan a cycling workout accordingly.

RPM is different from the other group cycling classes in that it is standardized and it follows a formula.

LMI standard:
All of the RPM instructors teach the same choreography and music, RPM 33 at Milton will sound and feel very similar to RPM at South Common or any club that teaches it.
There are a finite number of songs that you will ever hear at an RPM class so you will hear some tracks a number of times. Each time you do a track, you will get better at it.
Once you get good at riding each track you will be able to focus on your form and your effort level making you more successful.

RPM consists of 9 working sections of varying intensities and is regarded as an interval training program.

The participants are encouraged to work with three levels of physical exertion in mind, comfortable, uncomfortable and breathless. These are subjective and determined by the participant.

Songs are 5-6 minutes long. Track length remains fairly consistent between releases.

The Les Mills RPM classes are choreographed using the following formula (each track position serves the same training function on each release):

  • Track 1 Pack Ride – it’s a warm-up
  • Track 2 Pace Track – continuing to warm up and find your top pace
  • Track 3 Hills – seated and standing climbing – first cardio peak
  • Track 4 Mixed Terrain – speed and hill climbing – recover from track 3
  • Track 5 Intervals – quick peddle speed with seated and standing attacks – second cardio peak
  • Track 6 Speed work – series of races to top speed – slight recovery from track 5
  • Track 7 Mountain climb – seated and standing climbing with heavy resistance – third cardio peak
  • Track 8 Ride home – cool down
  • Track 9 Stretching

You are working to the same perceived exertion level for each track position on each release:

  • Track 1 Comfortable
  • Track 2 Almost breathless
  • Track 3 Breathless
  • Track 4 Comfortable
  • Track 5 Breathless
  • Track 6 Uncomfortable
  • Track 7 Breathless
  • Track 8 Comfortable
  • Track 9 Comfortable

There will be some recovery between tracks as songs fade out and new ones buil

Key aspects of the profile are:
Your heart rate should peak three times during the class, track 3, 5 and 7.

Your heart rate should recover almost completely during track 4 and somewhat during track 6.

Expectation of RPM riders:

You work as hard as you need to achieve the recommended level of exertion, recovering or increasing resistance as needed.

How to adjust your workout to make the most of an RPM class (assuming you are there for training and not just the fitness class):
Class lasts about 50 minutes and the last 7-8 minutes of that are cool down and stretching. Arrive early enough to make sure you get the time on the bike that you are hoping for before track 8. Your workout is over at track 8.

  • Track 1 – you will be peddling a lot slower because everyone else will be warming up. Use a lot of tension and treat track one as a seated hill. Make sure your legs are well warmed up. Hold the effort through the break between songs.
  • Track 2 – group peddling speed will be higher during this track. Adjust tension to find training HR. Carry effort to next song.
  • Track 3 – a beat matched track; riders should try and find push point to the beat. There will also be a couple of recovery period throughout the track and seated climb usually follows standing recovery. The best option is to seated climb thought recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 4 – this is racing and standing climb at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 5 – faster paced seated and standing attack. I think you should do this track, use it to spike your heart rate. I offer no suggestion for other options but it’s a high energy song so you could probably get away with staying seated the whole time.
  • Track 6 – this is racing at your pace, make it whatever you need it to be.
  • Track 7 – seated and standing climb, beat matched track. Seated climb through the standing recovery sections and adjust tension as needed to hold your training effort.
  • Track 8 – end of workout.

If you have any questions concerning how to modify your workout to better fit with the RPM format, just leave the questions below and I will address them or come to one of my classes and ask me directly.

My First Pay Cheque

Recently I got my first pay cheque from my fitness instructor job. It was for $20 less tax, EI, and Canadian pension.

It was a happy moment for me. This is the first job that I actually had a passion for BEFORE I started doing it. That’s a wonderful thing. It’s also the first job that I have had that I thought that I couldn’t do. Instructing is a skill that I have never had before so it’s completely new to me. I have been a personal trainer, war canoe coach and manager before, but these things are unique and different from instructing.

The hardest part with instructing, at least for me, is modeling proper form on the bike. When I race, I tend to get into whatever position I need to to get the bike moving quickly. Sometimes the back is rounded, sometimes my knees are pointing in, sometimes my head is down looking only a few inches in front of my wheel. This form doesn’t cut it with instructing because when you are leading a class, you can count on some of the participants copying and exaggerating you positioning and habits. My bad habits become the things that injure participants and that isn’t good for anyone.

I also passed my video which means I’m almost a certified RPM instructor. There is some paper work to complete and then it is done. I’m really happy about this because the feedback I got from the reviewer was mostly positive. As far as positioning goes, the only bad tendency I had on the video was a little upper body bouncing on the seated climb; the video was taped at the end of April and I have been working on this flaw since I noticed it. She also mentioned that I need to connect with the participants more and modulate my voice during some of the tracks; both things I am aware of and have been trying to address.

The positive feedback addressed my physical strength on the bike, my high level of fitness and my knowledge of the choreography. I was very pleased with the choreography comment because this was the first time I had ever learned anything like this so I’m still able to learn new skills.

My class this Tuesday night was my best yet. The participants are getting used to my coaching style and they seem to follow the cues I give them. I heard a lot of gasping at the end of track 5 and 7, which is what the choreography calls for and there were a few smiles during tracks 4 and 6. It is a fantastic feeling when it all comes together.

I still need to work on connecting with the class a little more, but the fact that they are following my coaching and positional cuing means I’m getting some of it right. Is it the world class experience that they are hoping to get out of it? Yes for some, not yet for others. But given that it has been 4 months since I took the training, I’m really happy with the progress.

Oh, and the $20 less deductions went to gas for my car.

Celebrate Your Failures

Yesterday someone I work with told me to celebrate my failures. He said it because I didn’t connect with a potential client properly and it ended up costing me a sale. I didn’t take the time I needed to be to recognized the next day. I didn’t make an impression because I didn’t care enough to make a good one.

He had a smile on his face when he said it because he knew it was a lesson. His point is valid if you are able to put your ego to the side and accept that you screwed up.

I learn more quickly when I accept that I have made a mistake, work to understand what I did wrong and moved to figure out how to avoid repeating it. By telling me to celebrate my failures, he was reminding me to hold onto my humanity, smile and improve my self-awareness. Great advice that I followed.

Today was better. I don’t think anyone I met today will forget me so I’m kicking my feet up and celebrating my lesson.