Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What Do You Do Well?

The key is to analyze a sport to ascertain the qualities that make a great a great performer and then to develop a program to improve those qualities. The key is not necessarily in analyzing a great performer and trying to improve what he does not do well. ~ Mike Boyle

This makes sense to me, not only for sports but also for life. We spend so much of our time focusing on what we don't do well - we buy books, go to seminars, attend workshops, all in an effort to figure out what makes successful people successful, and how we can emulate those qualities.

Maybe, what makes successful people successful, is that they have learned what they do well, and spend their time training their strengths versus their weaknesses. Maybe we spend so much of our time focused on what we need to do better, we tend to lose sight of what we really do well. In sports speak, we need to stop training our sprinters to be endurance athletes.

So lets train our train our sprinters to be faster, and our endurance athletes to be able to run longer. And, in sports, just like in life, we will do that by not focusing on what they can't do, instead, we will do it focused on what they do well.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

It's not what you do on the golf course...'s what you do before you get onto the golf course.

We have been talking a lot about the endurance sports over the past few weeks, so I decided to change tack a little bit, and give some attention to you golfers.

Golfing is an extremely challenging activity at the best of time, even more so when you have to divide your energy assignment between deep concentration and trying to manage the functioning of your body to deliver the best movement execution on every stroke.

The last thing you need to have to worry about is stiffness, limited mobility and limited range of motion (ROM) - all 3 energy drains on your energy supply.

Improving these 3 components of smooth and free movement does not happen overnight. It requires daily effort and attention, but the payoff is well worth the time invested.

So let's have a look at a few mobilization and ROM exercises you can incorporate into your program.

These exercises should be every day, before you hit your first ball on the course and when you have finished your round or your practice.

Deep squat, Heels up, arms up - an excellent exercise for increasing your Thoracic spine mobility and and your ROM through your shoulder girdle.

Freeze - Hold this position for 30 seconds up to 2 minutes and feel the muscles of the front area of the shoulder girdle opening. Excellent for those of you with a rounded posture.

Close gap - open - This technique drill will assist you to increase torso rotation and enhance dissociation between the lower and the upper body. It will also increase "communication" between the lower body and upper body.

3 very simple exercises to help you better manage your energy distribution on the course.

Monday, June 27, 2011

5 Thoughts on... Current Events

  1. Postal lockout is over - thankfully. Amazing how much gets held up in this day and age when a service like "snail mail" is witheld. I don't think this is going to have the effect either side wanted, though - consumers don't like anything that can hold them hostage. All it's going to take is for a private, cost-effective and non-union delivery service to compete with them, combined with the inevitable beauracracy of a crown corporation... I think we're seeing the beginning of the end.

  2. On that note - with the Canada Labour Standards in place to protect all workers, public and private, what is the purpose of unions? Seems to me that more often than not, they just create more work in an effort to guarantee their members better (not equal) deals than the privately employed individuals.

  3. I didn't like how it was brought in, but the HST is a better system overall - I still haven't heard an accountant or economist say otherwise, and to me this speaks volumes. Besides, they're comitted (by law) to lower it to 10% if it stays, which means although you're paying more on some things, you're paying less on others. Furthermore - no guarantee that things that were PST exempt before will stay exempt. Anyone thought about that? Hopefully people will vote with logic, not emotion.

  4. Ryan Smyth is back with the Oilers. Good - they were an exciting team to watch last year, despite how poorly they did in the end... hopefully his veteran leadership will compliment some of those young guys' speed.

  5. Nathan Kotylak, the rioter who was trying to blow up a police car... had a tearful apology on television. Pheh. Would he have been crying and apologizing if he hadn't been caught? I doubt it. If he was truly sorry, he should have come forward before he was exposed, then voluntarily stepped down from the national water polo team. That, to me, would have shown he was willing to accept responsibility for what he did.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Brown Bag

A common theme this week seems to be me listening to people who are frustrated about their slow progress in term of changes in their body composition. My first question whenever this conversation begins is always, 'Well, how's your diet?'

The typical response is, 'I eat pretty well.' Which translated, means that they eat well about 70 percent of the time, 20 percent less than what they need to be doing in order to see the results that they want. At this point, I usually start digging for specifics and invariably they start to reveal some major missing links in their nutritional plans.

It seems one of the most common themes is not planning ahead and packing your meals for the day. Furthermore, it's not time or preparation that are standing in the way of them doing it, it's that they don't want to seem different from everyone else. This blows my mind.

People are willing to sacrifice their health for fear of being ridiculed because they are doing something different. In reality, the only reason people would even notice, whether at a lunch or during a meeting, and comment, is because your choice of a healthier lifestyle is making them feel bad. Misery loves company and frankly, I'd rather not let my co-workers dictate whether I am fit or fat.

~ Sasha

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

One Final Tribute

Today's entry, very short and sweet, is pulled directly from the Airdrie Echo.
It is the town paper for the small city just north of Calgary. It's tribute is for a departed friend, the late Tim Harriman.

We've introduced you to him twice before on Swimupstream/ Innovative Thinking, and anything like minded individuals can do to advance the legacy of someone who lived to give- well we'll take that opportunity.

Please read and be inspired by what can be done at an age where most of us have no idea who they are...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The transition - Yes, they require practise too

After having almost a year off from triathlon racing, I competed in my first race of the season on Sunday, and although the conditions were not ideal, the body felt really good - the training paid off and my performance far exceeded my expectation.

I did, however, fall well short of receiving an A+ when it came to my transitions - they were horrible.

How many times have you hear these words, "My time would have been way better if I had not spent 8 minutes in transition". I have heard them many, many times.

Transitioning is one of those "details" which most triathletes "forget about" until they are in T1
(T 1 - swim to bike transition) and they are fumbling around trying to get out of the wetsuit, get the cycling gear on, recover a little bit from the swim effort and be quick through the process at the same time.

At this point I suddenly remembered why I had so diligently practised my transitioning so many times in the past - time passes very quickly when you are bumbling around your gear set up.

The remedy to this is a fairly simple one: spend a few minutes each week working through your transition. Like anything else, perfect practise make perfect.

Lay out your gear as you would on race day. Go from wetsuit to bike gear and bike gear to run gear - as you would on race day. Develop a sequence which you will remember, and use - every time you race.

On your brick days, lay out your gear in your car, and as you finish your swim, get out of the water, into your bike gear, and onto the bike as fast as you can. The same applies to the transition from the bike to the run.

On race day, follow the routine you practised - to the letter, and see how your time improves with very little additional effort on your part.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Thoughts on High School Reunions

I think Facebook has eliminated a lot of things that the reunions used to provide. I already knew, for the most part, what everyone looked like and what they were doing now - kind of took away the surprise.

Despite the Facebook phenomenon, there's no way to escape THE conversation: "Hey, great to see you... so what are you doing now? Oh yeah, I'm (fill in the blank). Are you married? Kids? (Awkward pause as conversation hits inevitable and merciful end...). Okay, well... I'm going to grab a drink/go to the bathroom/catch up with (Blank). Talk to you soon!"

You wear your life on your face. There was one guy who continues to mountain bike, workout, ride his cruiser to work... and frankly, he hasn't aged at all. One of my high school crushes? Still working in the bar and smoking, 20 years later - and looks like she's ten years older than the rest of us. Just one more reason that I can't understand why more people don't put activity and exercise at the top of their list of priorities, along with friends and family and before work.

There is never a good time to admit you are a personal trainer, unless you want to face a barrage of questions or comments wherein the other person is either seeking validation for their excuses, or absolution for their choices. I refused to give either. Kept the earlier aforementioned conversations considerably shorter than they had to be.

Finally, what's most surprising about the reunion - is how the cliches and stereotypes turn out to be 100% true, despite your hoping otherwise.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Fine Art of Letting People F**k Up

Learning something new is always challenging and you're bound to mess up along the way, it's an integral part of the process. However, teaching someone something new offers its own set of life lessons, specifically in the fine art of letting people f**k up.

I have come to the realisation that there is no easy way to teach someone something new, it's always challenging and even the best students can't retain everything. The fact of the matter is, they are going to mess up and the unfortunate reality of that is they will probably retain more from the mess up, than from your lesson plan. The hard part is letting them.

You have to trust in your teaching, in them and then let go. You may know how to do it better and finish faster but unless you want to continue doing it then you need to give someone else the chance. If you can learn to follow rather than lead, and show rather than do, all with the understanding that your way may not be the only way, then you have learned the fine art of letting people f**k up.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Evaluate your swimming stroke: Part 3 - Drilling

In the previous 2 posts we evaluated your swimming stroke and looked at some of the more common aspects of the stroke that are often problem areas for many swimmers and triathletes.

In today's post I want to look a few drills that will help you reduce the impact some of these problems have on your stroke and will allow you to swim more comfortably and more efficiently.

When it comes to drilling, it is not about how quickly you can complete the set or how fast and powerfully you can move through the water. Take your time, pay attention to the body and the position it is in. Remember: perfect practice makes perfect!

Drill #1: Zipper drill - For ensuring a high elbow position

Pretend you are pulling a zipper up from your hip (at the the end of the Pull through phase) up the side of the trunk to the arm pit (the Middle recovery phase).

By focusing on this, you will automatically maintain a good, high elbow position going into the Hand entry and Forward reach phase of the stroke.

Drill #2: Finger tip drag - Improved Thoracic spine rotation and stroke length

Finger glides require you try to drag the finger tips lightly along the surface of the water as your arm moves from the Mid recovery phase, to the Hand entry phase of the stroke.

This will again get your attention focused on your elbow and hand position, and challenge you to get a good "reach forward" in the Forward reach phase.

Drill #3: Stutters - Creates awareness of arm position before hand enters water

Stutters require you to focus on maintaining a good, high elbow position after the Hand exit phase.

Instead of going straight into the Hand entry, I want you to momentarily hold the arm stationary, halfway through the stroke, and then allow it to enter the water.

Drill #4: Catch up - Enhance your ability to "glide" between strokes

Although often used, this drill is not executed very well.

The bottom line is that there should be only 1 arm moving at any given time during the stroke, meaning the left arm should be laid out ahead of you, while the right arm is going through the stroke.

When the right arm has completed the stroke, it replaces the position the Left arm held, while the Left arm goes through the stroke.

Purpose - Keep the entire body nice and long and elongated, and allow you to really focus in on your entire stroke.

Drill #5: Back lying kicking - Great as a beginner kicking drill

Using a kick board, lie on your back in the water and hold arms straght up over the head, grasping the board.

Now, focusing on generating power from the hips and not the knees, propel yourself along the lane by licking.

Keep your hips up and ankles as relaxed as possible, and when you master this, you are welcome to kick in the prone (face down) position.

Finally, we bring all 5 of the drills together and work on the stroke in its entirety. Always keep the individual drills at the forefront of your mind while swimming and pay close attention to the feedback your body is giving you.

Happy swimming!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Six Objective Thoughts on the Stanley Cup Final

  1. I like Tim Thomas. He's a great story, a hard worker, a "passion before technique" type of goalie that you don't have to be a giant, or a technical robot, to be successful in net.

  2. I don't particularly like Roberto Luongo. He's a decent goalie that's not as bad as some people say, but certainly not as good as others will have you believe. But more importantly, he never seems to accept any personal responsibility for anything - instead, justifying why he couldn't make the safe. Furthermore, although some of his comments are certainly being taken out of context (ie. what he's said about Tim Thomas' miss after the fifth game), you'd think he'd learn to just keep his mouth shut.

  3. I like the Sedins. Though their production may ebb and flow during the playoffs, the team is still getting the job done, and frankly - the dignified way they handle the endless criticism and juvenile attacks in the media impresses me even more and garners that much more respect.

  4. I like Burrows. But if he was on another team, I'd probably hate him. Same with Kesler.

  5. I don't like the "holier than thou", Pollyanna, "poor me" way the Bruins are acting. They're just as chippy, committing just as many hacks, dives and slashes as the Canucks - but for some reason, they're not being called on it by the officials or the media.

  6. I haven't been impressed with the referrees. However, I've tried referreeing and know that it's a lot easier throwing the stones than living in the glass house.

In the end, I'm not going to lie - I was cheering for the Canucks from the beginning, but having seen the way the (eastern based) CBC has been criticizing them non-stop, often (though not always) unfairly - I really want to see them win so that they can stick right down the throats of some of those same critics.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Someone is Busier than You ...

How many times have you heard someone say they would like to do something but they are too busy? Me, I hear it all the time. In the health and fitness industry hearing 'I'm too busy' is almost as common place and cliched as the 'just a second, I need to tie my shoe' shtick. You are never too busy for things that you want to do - it doesn't matter what it is, if you've decided that you want to do it, you will find a way to fit it into your life no matter what. 'I'm too busy' is not a reason, it's an excuse, and a poor one at that.

There are times in life, that even the most dedicated suffer through, when you're forced by either injury, obligation or some other reason to take time off from working out and whenever you get started again, you always wonder where you found the time before. That's the problem, you didn't find the time, you made the time out of the same amount of time that you currently have. The difference was that you made your health and wellness a priority.

So, the next time you hear someone say that they are too busy to workout, ask them what they are choosing to invest their time in besides their health and wellness, and maybe remind them that without it, their time is limited.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Evaluate your swimming stroke: Part 2

In last weeks post I introduced you to a very simple and easily applied tool for assessing swim stroke mechanics.

Last Wednesday, I carried out this very simple and basic evaluation of the triathlon group I coach. We spent a little bit of our first swimming session together looking at their mechanics and technique.

As promised, this week I will look at a few of the main areas that present challenges to most swimmers (in triathlon anyway), and next week I will provide you with some solutions to these problems.

  1. The head position in the water:
    Ideal: We are looking for the eyes to looking down, neck in neutral and the water at the heads midline.
    Reality: Often we see the face out of the water, or just in the water, eyes looking forward and the water at the hairline of the head.
    We want to try to reduce the amount of tension being held in the neck and shoulders as much as possible.

  2. Breathing: (Image F & G)
    Ideal: Head "rotates on the spine" to the side, ear remains submerged in the water.
    Reality: The entire head is lifted out of the water
    Not only does this impact your stroke mechanics, it also results in the hips dropping and increases the cost of swimming exponentially.
    Whether you breath bilaterally or unilaterally is totally up to you.

  3. Body position: (All images)
    Ideal: Hips just breaking the surface of the water, almost at same level as shoulders and the heels also just breaking the waters surface while kicking (feet plantarflexed)
    Reality: Feet dragging below hip level, and hips below shoulder lever
    Having good body alignment will allow for a controlled and even rotating of the hips from side to side

  4. Kicking: (All images)
    Ideal: For triathletes, small flutter kicks from the hips, seeing feet move straight up and down with the heels just breaking the waters' surface.
    Reality: Power kicking from the knees, scissor kicking with feet kicking away from the midline.

  5. Arm mechanics: (Image G & H)
    Ideal: Arm exits the water at your hip and comes through remaining close to the body, the elbow remains high throughout the stroke
    Reality: Arms exit the water at the ribs and are move wide outside the width of the shoulders

    Have a look at your scoring and compare what you scored on the above areas. Think about these points while you are in the water, and next week I will give some drills and pointers to minimize the ocurrance of these deviations.

Monday, June 06, 2011

True Leaders

So - here's the thing.

While there's no denying their skill (although, as Eliotte Friedman pointed out, the television doesn't do it justice as you can't pick up how incredible their puck management actually is), it's what they do outside of the arena that, to me, really puts them in the elite.

Some examples:

  • Last year, they donated $1.5million to help build a new BC Children's Hospital...

  • In the middle of the final round in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Henrik showed up at the birthday party of an friend's son...

  • At the airport after winning game 2 in the same playoff series - who stopped to sign autographs for their fans? Not Roberto Luongo - nope, he went straight through. That's right... Henrik and Daniel.

Now, I'm not criticisizing Luongo for this, mind you - most players wouldn't want the distractions as they are playing one of the most important series in their professional lives. However, I think that what the Sedins did demonstrates so much about their character, that it just gives an even bigger reason to cheer for them - individuals like this deserve to win.

I respected them as players before - but now, more than ever, as people.

Go Canucks.


Friday, June 03, 2011

Keeping the Resolution

I read a great article in Success (a magazine) called 'Keep the Resolution' that I would like to share with everyone:
People who look lean don't go on diets and starve themselves, they don't attempt to do countless amounts of exercise every day, and they don't obsess over weight loss and battle the bathroom scale. In fact, they do the opposite. That being said you will be encouraged to know that getting lean and staying lean is absolutely doable from an action standpoint. But looking lean requires you to change the way you think.
People who look lean focus on fat loss, not weight loss. Being lean starts with the understanding that weight loss and fat loss are not the same. Weight loss is an ambiguous term and doesn't tell you whether you've lost fat weight or muscle weight. Fat loss is a specific term with a single meaning: loss of body fat. Most of your body's fat is stored on top of your muscles and consequently determines how 'defined' or lean you are.
The bathroom scale doesn't measure what kind of weight you lose. When you step on the scale and it says you lost 10 pounds, are you 100 percent sure that it came from body fat and not muscle? Measuring your body fat and monitoring your lean body weight is the only way you can be sure. People who look lean ignore the scale and are much more focused on keeping their body fat levels down.
The point is that looking good and feeling great has absolutely nothing to do with general weight loss. It's losing body fat that makes you look leaner, and it's losing body fat that makes you healthier so you feel great.
People who look lean eat wisely, not less. When you don't provide your body with enough fuel (food) to keep up with its energy demands, your body is forced to burn its own muscle tissue as an energy source. Straight to the point, when you deprive yourself, whats actually showing up on the scale is a loss of muscle weight. Why is that such a big deal? The fact is that muscle tissue is one of the largest contributing factors in determining the speed of your metabolism. So when your body is forced to burn its own muscle for energy it sets off a chain reaction of detrimental consequences.
Weight training (not endless hours of cardio) is the absolute key to fat loss. Fact: Muscle tissue helps control the speed of your metabolism. Your metabolic rate is like a fire. When you protect and maintain your muscle, your fire will remain hotter and bigger. Therefore from a fat-burning perspective, protecting the muscle you have and rescuing the muscle you've lost must become your top priority.
Hands down the most effective activity for rescuing and protecting muscle is weight training because it's the only activity that involves all your major muscle groups through a full range of motion. People who look lean understand that even though they may participate in other activities, the other activities cannot and do not replace the benefits you get from eight training.
~ Bruce Day