Everything is Mental

mental

I’ve read that a doctor can place a patient’s leg on their head with a straight leg while under anesthesia. The stretch reflex is not active and the body moves freely. That’s not to say there aren’t real obstacles to muscle length in an AWAKE person. I’m also NOT saying that a person is mentally weak if they can’t touch their toes. But it IS something to think about.

Many top athletes tell you that sport is mostly mental. Sure, you have to have genetics and good training to realize success. But you can’t get over the fact that how we perceive and make things happen is largely mental. I have books about ultramarathons where people run 100 miles or more in stage races. Even when their bodies begin to fail them, they somehow still manage to do amazing things. If you look at programs like the SealFit Kokura program, they put people through physical rigors akin to real Seal BUDs training. But the focus is on building mental toughness. You can be an All-Star running back at the highest level, but still fail these types of training. Why? Its a mental thing.

This comes around to my current diet. In our minds, we think we’ll die if we don’t have 3 meals a day. If we’ve always had meat-potato-veggie or hamburger-fries, then that’s all we know. A professor went on a convenient store food diet of Twinkies, Ho-Ho’s, and other assorted junk food. He carefully monitored his calorie intake to be in deficit and ended up losing 27 pounds in like 3 months. That’s not to say his blood work and health didn’t take its toll. But it proves the point that calories DO matter! You can’t just eat clean and expect to lose weight. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Yesterday, I lived off of 621 kcals. I wouldn’t recommend doing that, but I’ve come to realize it is a mental thing. The biggest culprit in dieting is not necessarily the meals themselves. Its the numerous snacks that we constantly graze on throughout the day. That all adds up. I’ve lost 9 pounds and feel healthy as ever. The Fat Secret app is what has done it for me. I carefully monitor what I eat and how many calories I burn with exercise. I am roughly burning 2,000 calories more than I take in every day. I teach and do yoga, do about 20 mins of cardio, and do either CrossFit or Olympic weightlifting every day. And somehow, I’m not starving and my performance is still going strong.

Sure, I know there are physical things happening that are real. I know my stomach has likely shrunk so it doesn’t take much for me to feel satiated. My energy levels aren’t nearly as dynamic in amplitude (aka. no highs and lows). And I feel so much better. In the first week of my diet, I fasted most of one day and finished my day with half of a Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza. It was SO yummy, though I wouldn’t make a habit of this. Lately, I keep saying I’ll reward myself with a Culver’s Burger or something like that. But I don’t need it. I’m too excited for my weight loss. Once I hit my goal, I’ll moderate and enjoy those foods again. But I won’t let my weight creep back up again…EVER!

Its mostly a mental thing

 

Burn the Fat!

burn-fat-fast

When I was a wrestler in high school, I could cut weight pretty easily. Not that it was easy, but I could do it. I kept my 6-pack through my 20’s without any trouble and I ate what I wanted. But skip ahead a few decades and let me tell you, it ain’t easy. I could fast an entire day and still gain a pound. For aging men, testosterone isn’t there at the levels that it used to be. And I empathize with many women post-pregnancy. Its a battle for sure.

I listened to a Barbell Shrugged podcast this morning. I haven’t even listened to the whole thing and I’m super stoked! They talked all about metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and other sciency things. They mentioned a study with women athletes where they found doing cardiovascular (aerobic) work following a heavy lifting session showed no positive effects. The podcast guest (sorry need to look up his name again) suggested we should split aerobic and heavy lifting sessions apart. This is true even for CrossFit athletes who tend to want it all in one fell swoop.

The reason is due to our use of energy systems. If we are using an ATP/CTP rich system that lasts only 10 seconds, we need to focus on carbohydrates to fuel the work. If we are doing low-intensity endurance work, we should focus more on a long-lasting, fat-burning system. In CrossFit, we do mix the systems, but it works differently from how you would think. Yes, the glycogen pathway is used for the heavy lifting part, but when you rest or lower intensity, this is when the fat-burning system takes over. But our bodies don’t adapt well to mixing the two together.

So then we come back to fat. I realize I’ve been doing it wrong. I eat BIG usually later in the evening thus abiding by my Warrior Diet (mostly Paleo) concepts. Then I do intermittent fasting most of my workday. However, this often fails because I run out of energy doing heavy lifts or CrossFit WODs in the morning or I start to get so hungry that I feel I need to eat lunch. So I probably undermine the benefits of fat-burning through intermittent fasting. To tell you the truth, as I get older, its harder to move faster and lift heavier earlier anyway. I’m much more mobile later in the day. So here is my new plan:

  • Dinner at night – protein- and fat-rich to encourage recovery, growth, and sleep
  • Sleep – monitored by my Sleep App for quality
  • Wake – walk dogs, coffee, & news; cardio (run, bike, ski erg, rowing)/yoga
  • Work Day – intermittent fasting, maybe having some coconut oil or peanut butter
  • Late afternoon – Carb/Protein shake, maybe rice, 1+ hours before workout
  • Heavy Workout – Powerlifting; CrossFit WOD; Olympic weightlifting (no cardio)
  • …repeat…

I look forward to seeing how this works for me. I think it will solve my fat-burning issues and will encourage more strength and growth.

The Correct Soreness

DSC_0004

It has taken me this long in my life to finally find the balance. When I was young, and even not so young, I thought I had to hammer my body into perfect shape through brutal means. I was doing the prescribed 100 reps of everything. I was running for 8 hours straight. I pushed the extremes…always. Even when I got into yoga. I always thought if I wasn’t sweaty and spent from Ashtanga or Power yoga, then it wasn’t worth my money to go to class.

It wasn’t until several years ago when I took yoga teacher training that I learned I could let go of my ego. And believe me, I had a huge one. It was all “Go Hard or Go Home” for me. I learned meditation. I learned the balance between Raja and Tamas to find the true center of happiness, Sattva. I found doing very hard, strenuous poses followed by Yin and Restorative poses brought you to bliss, or Samadhi. But this also bled over to CrossFit and my other pursuits. I stopped doing prescribed workouts and instead found my own way.

The key to CrossFit and high-intensity training is to find intensity over time. The time could be 2 minutes or 45 minutes. This was brought to light in the Olympics. I saw 200m sprinters completely exhausted after putting everything they had into their race. They were like top-fuel dragsters who put their bodies to the extreme. But you watch a 5K run and there is the same intensity. The same cup-full of energy is poured out more slowly, but the same effort is given overall.

When I went to the CrossFit Level 1 trainer course, they mentioned how intensity can’t be measured in sweat. One instructor said that in Atlanta with no air-conditioning in the gym, you can break into a full sweat just tying your shoes. Sweat doesn’t equal intensity. In some respects, I believe that soreness also is not a perfect indicator. Soreness is more linked to eccentric movement (lowering a weight or lengthening muscle). However, muscle soreness does indicate that you did something that caused micro-trauma to muscle tissue. So it does measure that aspect of working out pretty well.

The key to soreness for me is the right level of soreness. When I used to run ultra-marathons, it would take a full week for me to walk normally again, let alone run. It may take 2-4 weeks to find full recovery. I just listened to a podcast with Sara Sigmundsdottir, the CrossFit Games 2016 champion. She said it took 45 days to finally feel normal again after the Games. Extreme competition is admirable and its amazing to see what the body can do. But for most of us, that is way too much. As non-professionals, we need to live out our professional lives too.

I still vary the time periods from 2 to 45 minutes for my workouts. But most fall in the 5-10 minute range. I may do 2 to 4 different workouts of this nature in one session. If I’m doing strength or Olympic Weightlifting too, I may do a WOD as my warm-up for lifting. I may also tap into a 2 minute all out effort or Tabata Intervals (8 rounds of 20 second work and 10 secs rest). BTW, search for “Tabata Songs”. They are very useful for Tabatas. When I took high school physical fitness classes, they defined a mild soreness as being isotonic. It means that you have a nice tautness to your muscles as a result of exercise. You don’t have to kill yourself to get this feeling. But I believe you should feel something.

Here is an example from yesterday:
6 rounds for time
6 deadlift jumps with a trap bar with 111 pounds6 burpees
6 lat pulldowns on a cable machine

You don’t have to do 25, 50, or 100 reps of an exercise to feel the effect. To me, that is all about ego. If you want to grow and function in real life, let go of the ego. You’ll be nicely sore, fulfilled, and always ready for more.

“Constantly Varied”

In the past few days, I’ve come to some brutal realizations. Specificity of movement is real!

In my mind, I think to myself “yeah I could pop off 100 push-ups, pull-ups, and sit-ups without thinking about it”. Maybe at one time that would be true. Today wasn’t that day.

Don’t get me wrong, I teach intense yoga classes 3 days a week, I do my own practice on top of that, and I do Olympic weightlifting. I honestly try to stay on top of things. But since my recent commitment to upping the percentage of CrossFit into my life again, it is a rough reality.

I strained a latissimus dorsi, aka “Lat”, more than a month ago. So, I’ve been resting and not doing pull-ups or similar movements. I added a metcon with some pull-ups in it and it was like starting over again. Not easy at all. 

I also did a Tabata sit-up interval. Now, I’ve always been able to do sit-ups for days. I also do a lot of ab-related work in yoga. So I thought, this would be an easy addition that would get me some core work. The first two intervals went well. Then the wheels fell off. I would be afraid to admit how few I did all together. Boat pose and similar movements are super awesome and I highly recommend what they do for you. But they aren’t the same. 

Specificity of movement has a large role in our lives. Yeah, you might do lat pull downs for days, but if you aren’t swinging a sledge or chopping wood, you might find the “suck”. I will say, there is carry over for a lot that you do. The more you vary what you do, the better you’ll adapt to a different movement. But if you get stuck in only one pattern, you might have some issues.

Constantly varied should be your mantra if you want to function in life. Vary the time domains from a 1-minute max out for reps to a long 30-45 minute grinding WOD or cardio interval. Do heavy lifts, gymnastic movements, and sports. Vary the time of day you workout, vary what you wear, vary everything! Then you’ll always be ready.