Some Things Are Classic.

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

I recently met and older version of myself at a Christmas party.  He and his wife have mutual friends and he was in his mid 40’s and well dressed.  I wasn’t until later in the evening that I found out that he was the regional manager of Harry Rosen.  I laughed and said that my dream job would be to own an old school apothecary… a cool barber shop that had unique colognes, men’s products.  It would be the best thing I could think of next to the position I have right now.  I had a great conversation about things that had that “old school” cool or classic element of style.  So I followed that up on Saturday with a visit to Knifewear in the Inglewood community of Calgary.  Now this place sells Japanese knives, but in the back they have a section of straight razors, hard to find aftershaves, badger brushes, and mug soaps.  WICKED.

And this started to make me think.  It was something that I would not talk about much, but I have a few little things that I love outside of my family and my career.  I am not going to pretend that I have a great sense of style but I do well for myself.  It started many years ago when I got my first Men’s Health magazine and took off from there.  At 15 I got my first real cologne… a blue bottle of Polo Ralph Lauren Sport.  And the love affair took off from there.  Over the years I developed a schema of what it was to have my own personal style.  Over the years I grew a love for unique colognes, and studied the components, the notes and houses that create the great colognes.  I gravitated to the House of Creed, Le Labo and the newly launched Tom Ford private blend.  I garnered an obsession with salvage denim jeans.  I spend $60 on a cab ride in New York just to visit World Brand Jean Shop in New York where they make custom jeans.  Great shoes and as some know coloured laces are just part and parcel of the ideal I have developed.  I find these things fun to learn and research about.   Watching Skyfall inspired me to attempt to shave with a straight razor.  Now the art of shaving is a ritual, not just something that I do.

So what does this have to do with a site about performance and training?  People spend countless hours training to, as one gym puts it… “Look Good Naked”.  That’s a great concept and I too train to look good naked.  But in reality what percent in the case of guys are you walking around with your shirt off?  Yes you workout but I always look back to the little old men who get up and still put on their suit with no where to go.  It is about dressing to represent you.  Taking pride, and when you dress well, you carry yourself with a different swagger.  You have a greater sense of confidence when you are dressed up.  And I am not talking about a suit like a scene out of Mad Men.  And you do not have to dress to break the bank.  It is about some simple staples, like the feeling of putting on a good pair of jeans that fit.  You should not have to pull your pants up or your shirt down.  Tossing on a pair of old school Chuck Taylors.  American classics.  It is about pride.  Not in a boastful but in a way that shows you carry yourself with class.  And that is something that I think has taken a back seat in the past few years.  Something so simple that needs to make a comeback.

I am by no means an expert. And nor do I pretend to be. But I have been asked in the last few weeks to talk to undergrads thinking about time post graduation, about what it is I do. Yes, I have a unique job. AND I LOVE IT. I like to think that I have had some level of success to make it 10+ years in this career. Sure, there are days that I am frustrated, disappointed, but in general, and you can ask my wife… I love getting up and going to work. I love the teams I am with, and the projects that I am involved with. And I have said this before, and well, I will say it again, the road that I have traveled is a shitty one. I have been asked to be at a career fair in January to speak to a student body and the coordinator asked that I be as honest as possible. So this is a little start to the preparation. There are situations as I move forward in this career that I wish someone would have sat me down, and said, “this is how it is. Suck it up, get used to it or don’t do this at all.” And here we go…

1. Your hours in the first stage of this career will suck.. most cases you will work when others do not. You need to put in extra hours proving you want to be in this career. And at no point should you ever thing a job is below you. I was done my masters, had 8 years of experience and I still did shifts manning a fitness desk handing out equipment. You know why? Because it had to be done… it is called work. Be grateful you are doing what you are doing. The hours can get better.

2. This can be tough on your family. And with the tough hours comes the strain on the family. I was lucky enough to marry a saint who has been patient with me, my career choice and has been one of my biggest supporters. Be realistic and understand the rough spots of the job because you need to be…

3. Patient young grasshopper. If you do all the things that need to be done… put in the time, shadow, volunteer, sacrifice good things happen. Every one wants the corner office. We dream of it. But guess what? There are only 4 corners. There are only so many jobs at the top. And sure you have the skills, the swagger what ever you want to call it. There are still alpha dogs running the show and you have to wait your turn to eat. You do not walk out of school and get handed a team and say run with it. You need to shadow, put in your time learning the dynamics of working with athletes or clients. Things are not just given to you be cause you deserve it, YOU EARN IT. So with that you have to…

4. Champion something… do not be a jack of all trades, master of none. What gets you out of bed in the morning and excited to go to work. And what is going to set you apart from the next kid who just got their degree and is going to be a coach. It is fine to be well versed in the trades but there is a point at which you are dabbling in so many things that you are unfocused. That is what I was like when I was young. It was great to experience many theories but do not try to be so versatile that you become handcuffed by your inability to focus on what matters. Learn to recognize the fly shit from the pepper.

5. Be humble but be confident. This is the one that I wish someone would have told me day one. There are a lot of good people out that and there is more than enough people to work with. There is no need to be guarded about who is working with who. This is one that I still struggle with today and from time to time I need someone to call me out. Be confident in your skills but do not at anytime think what you are doing is so unique that you have to keep it from others. All good coaches are doing something similar… with their own flare. So with that it sometimes means that you need to be a…

6. Coaching ninja – you are a coach. You are not the front and centre of the athletic universe. You are there to help that athletes be the front and centre of the athletic universe they are in. YOU ARE SUPPORT STAFF. In reality at the higher levels that athletes is world class for a reason and your contribution yes, plays an important role, but is not as grand as it is in your mind. Coach, but do not look for the immediate glory of coaching. Your glory will come when you see those athletes you are working with compete and be successful.

7. EVERY program needs some form of individualization. You cannot write one program and hand it to a team. It would be beautiful, but your athletes are all different. They have different training ages (years of training) structural tolerance to training loads, etc. So you have to find a way to make that program individualized to each athlete. I work with national water polo and although the program appears to look the same across the board, there are variations for each athlete to accommodate for their individual differences.

8. If you do not understand the program or the athletes back ground, ask. Do not assume that you know. And do not assume that you know your program is working. If you cannot measure it you do not know what the out come is. If you think your programs is successful, measure it and prove it…

9. So there for you cannot believe everything you read on the internet. There are a lot of experts out there. You have to be able to critically evaluate what you read. Any asshole can post to the web… why the best example is the fact that you are reading my material right now.

It’s Called /’trānING/

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Performance

Training (/’trānING/) – the acquisition of knowledge, skills and competencies as a result of teaching of vocational or practical skills and knowledge that relate to specific useful competencies.  Training has specific goals of improving one’s capability, capacity and performance.

Physical Training – concentrates on mechanistic goals:  training programs in this area develop specific skills or muscle, often with a view of peaking at a particular time.  Some physical training programs focus on raising over all physical fitness.

It’s the summer.  I would much rather be drinking a beer, barbecuing and simply being outside.  But in the career I chose as a coach this is the busiest time of the year for most physiologist and coaches of winter sport.  Our athletes are in the off season and are preparing for the upcoming year.

So as a coach, your time diminishes.  With that your time to train shrinks.  I know some people think, “just train with your athletes.”  They don’t pay me to train with them, they train me to coach.  Cannot do both, its that simple.  So, we as coaches are relegated to having a small window to train ourselves.  Some days you are lucky to get an hour to do some type of physical activity.  So workouts tend to be short, bordering on Cossfit-ish.  Look, I am now in my 30’s and have really nothing to train for anymore other than to look good naked.  I am starting to get over the thoughts of having to have the biggest Squat and Deadlift.  I still want impressive numbers and hit a few PB’s every once in a while.  I like to challenge my limits; I want to be strong and have aerobic capacity.  I need to have a point to training.  Although I have nothing to train for I want to see outcome results.   I have to do some work… Just get work done!

“The difference between exercising and training is having a point. Exercises done to waste energy burn calories or blow off steam, access mental and physical energy and tension. Training is done in order to improve something strength endurance neuromuscular control etc. exercise is a singular event with an immediate goal”

“The success of the training can only be judged by changes over time and performance. Exercise just doesn’t have a point beyond the immediate session if you leave the gym sweaty mess it was a good exercise session or workout. If you show up every day and breathe hard and get tired and sweaty you may consider yourself to be successful at exercise. By contrast training can only be judged as a success if it works – that is if after an appropriate amount of time you can clearly show improved capacity for physical work. You may show up every day and push and pull and grunt and sweat and even limp to your car – but be terribly unsuccessful at training, overtime if you are not getting any stronger faster leaner more agile better at your chosen sport etc.”

Yes, I have very limited time to train but after an appropriate amount of time I personally need to see improved capacity for physical work.  That is just the coach in me.  I cannot do exercise for the sake of exercise.  So in my search for some short workouts, ones that I do not have to write, I turned to a couple of resources, which I will share with you.  Yes, they are Crossfit groups, but of the ones that I have looked through these are the ones that get “training”.   I think some of them use the name Crossfit to get others through the door.  They have a progression, appear to be periodized and for what I do, train to train, suit my purpose.  They focus on the power lifting, and the Olympic lifting so that appeals to me and doing some general work.

http://outlawcoach.wordpress.com/

http://www.catalystathletics.com/

http://www.crossfitinvictus.com/

http://laurenpryor.com/

 

 

 

 

Gym Rules to Live By…

Posted: June 20, 2013 in Performance
  1. Use Chalk
  2. Loud Music Only
  3. Work Hard or Go Home
  4. Do Not Lower Deadlift Quietly
  5. Grunting Allowed
  6. Put Weights Away When Done
  7. Break Your Last PR
  8. TRAIN, Do Not Work Out
  9. Respect The Equipment and Staff

 

There is a buzz right now in the pool here for Water Polo Canada.  Recent World League Champions Serbia is in Calgary for joint training with the national team.  There is a sense of awe surrounding the Serbian team.  The way the guys talked about the Serbs, I figured when the jumped in the pool they would either walk on the water or part the waters upon entrance.  They show up with 18 players… and when basically the only sport in your country is Water Polo, then you have the pick of the best.  They are LARGE men.  When you are a player born in ‘94 and you are hovering on 6’5” 100 – 105 kg, that’s a mountain in the pool.  They are impressive, but what impresses me is not the Serbian’s,  it the amount of work that was accomplished by our Canadian team this year.  Hell, we beat USA for the first time in 40 year, not once, but twice to qualify for World Championships.  I would challenge any country to have put as much work in as our Canadian team.

 

So today, Canada and Serbia start their joint training.   We take out usual spot in the weight room and Serbia takes up some realestate at the other end of the building.  As I make my way over to return some equipment to the other side of the building I watch a little of what the Serbians are doing.  Now I cannot make an opinion on their program and periodization based on a 5 minute viewing (however there a a tonne of “experts” on the internet that can watch a YouTube clip of training a think they have a sniff of what’s going on), they were not doing anything revolutionary.  And I can make an educated guess that they are following RULE #8.  They train!

 

There is no magic to training.  Do some F##king Work.   That is it.  Sure when it come to a team and competitions then there is calculated F##king Work.  But it is not something revolutionary, or entertaining.  If I were here to entertain athletes I would wear a clown nose and balance on a ball.  I can guarantee that that they are not doing Cleans and then burpees over the bar or what ever else is used to “just make someone sweat”.  They are picking things that are heavy up and putting them down… and repeat.   They are swimming hard and fast and swimming long and slow.  They are doing WORK in an organized fashion.  It is that simple.  But RULE #8 will require RULES #3, 4, 5 and 7… and sometimes 1 and 2 to be used at all times.  And then I told the guys that, my concluding comment was, “ and that is what we did all year.”  The Water Polo team completed a lot of calculated work.  And now with World League Champs in town, we will see how that work paid off!

 

 

 

After a great 9 days here in Eger, with a bit of downtime, there are things that I have learned or crossed my mind.  In no particular order…

  1. My European geography is terrible.  If I had a blank map and had to point to Hungary, I would be hard pressed to get it right before this trip.  Thank you Google Earth for being awesome.
  2. I have no sense of direction right now.  We came here to Eger in the dark, we went to Debrecen (neighbor town) in the dark and I do not know N-S-E-W.  Keep in mind we have had nothing but clouds, rain, snow, fog, freezing rain etc. since we arrived and that for some reason has helped to screw with my internal compass.
  3. I need the sun.  It could be -10 but as long as there is sun, it doesn’t feel that bad.  And the Damp cold just chills your bones. Crazy
  4. It is amazing that I know little of any other language. But nearly everyone here can say something in English… hello, good morning, thank you etc. Really have to learn a few terms in the last few days.
  5. On that note, Hungarian is the second hardest language to learn next to Chinese.   The closest language to it is actually Swedish.  It has no Latin background.
  6. Hungary, your food is amazing.  I will be honest; I do not get what the deal is with Schnitzel.  It is breaded chicken or pork or what ever they can hammer flat.  I would not cross the street for it.  And pickles are not salad.  But everything else has been great.  Pista really should be put on everything.  Soups are amazing.  Bean Goulash… unreal.  And I am not a desert guy but Somlói galuska and Pelenchka.  Oh my God.  That is the greatest desert I have ever had.  Yes I found the recipe.  And by the way, pickled baby watermelons are down right FANTASTIC.
  7. Every meal is huge.  Three course huge.  And heavy in starch.  If I could eat like this on a regular basis, and train 3 – 4 times a week, I would look like the beasts that play water polo here.  No wonder the men in Hungary are built like brick shit houses.
  8. I love home.  The mountains are breathtaking but when people come to visit, we show them nature.  In Hungary we see history all around us.  You can feel it.  The sense of it is everywhere.  Eger what the site of a great battle at the Castle Eger.  Most of the men were at war, and the women stayed in the castle to defend against the Turks.  In 1552, a Turkish army of 35,000-40,000 soldiers attacked the castle, which had 2,100-2,300 defenders. The siege failed as the Turks suffered heavy casualties. A total of 1,700 of the defenders survived.  They actually would put animal skins filled water and pebbles on top of them in the ground. It they noticed the pebbles shaking or falling off, it was their defense to know the Turks were trying to dig their way under the wall.  That feeling or sense of history is lacking in Western Canada.
  9. You feel as if you went 20 years back in time here.  Little old men still dress in their hats and put on shirts and ties, smoking a pipe and have no where to go.  People still carry a wooden basket to and from the market.  So cool.10. Lululemon would do terrible here.   There are no causal clothes.  Women here are all dressed up.   Even if in jeans, they have their make up and hair done.  I have not seen anyone even wearing sweats, come to think of it.
  10. Lululemon would do terrible here.   There are no causal clothes.  Women here are all dressed up.   Even if in jeans, they have their make up and hair done.  I have not seen anyone even wearing sweats, come to think of it.
  11. There is a sign at the local pool that has a pair of board shorts with a line though it.  No board shorts?  That is why everyone is rocking the speedo (turbo).  And there are some old dudes rocking the speedo.  And we are talking about some old speedos.  Gross.
  12. Fitness is not about going to the gym and hitting the weights.  The two gyms I have been to are tiny.  Our change rooms back at home are larger.  I was told that a boot camp was just starting here in Eger.  Found that so funny.  But fitness is very apparent.  Swimming is very cultural thing.  Man, there are 4 and 5 year olds lapping the 50 m pool.  It starts at a young age.  I was just shocked.  But the idea of fitness is very different from home.  Difference in “Physical Culture”.
  13. The showers here suck.  Bloody tiny, and every time I turn around my ass would either turn the water to hot, or off.  Oh, and shower curtains are supposedly a new addition.
  14. If you stand too close to the toilets when they flush, they might just suck your shirt off.  I didn’t realize the Europeans were using vortexes for waste removal.
  15. The eclectic mix of music we heard during dinner was amusing.  Brittany Spears was a little more than I could take.  But when the old dude was playing the keyboard during dinner and he ended the night with a jazzy version of “Last Post” I just about pissed my pants at the dinner table.  The whole table burst out laughing.  He did a great elevator worthy “Eye of the Tiger” by the way.
  16. I will stand by my word and say that with out a doubt, our men’s water polo team for Canada is one of, if not the fittest water polo team out there.  And we could not ask for a harder working group.  If we can keep this group together for the next four years, there is no telling how amazing we could do.  I have nothing but 100% faith in this team and their potential and I cannot emphasize how proud I am to be part of this program.

From Hungary With Love Pt 1.

Posted: January 19, 2013 in Lessons, Performance

As many of you will know I recently accepted a contract at the Canadian Sports Centre in Calgary.  As part of that contact I became the strength coach/ physiologist for Water Polo Canada.  There is limited availability to play games in Canada.  Tough to play the US as they are a rival and training with them helps them to get better and vice versa.  The college system with their rules limits the games they can play outside NCAA and from what I have been told, we would dismantle them.  So with no games since the Olympic Qualifiers in July 2012 the team organized a training camp in Hungary.  And, well… that meant I am talking a trip to Hungary with the team.

I write this as I watch ZF Eger play on the TV.  ZF Eger is the local professional team where one of our national members plays full time.  The city has billboards of the players, the matches etc.  There is no doubt that Water Polo is the national sport of this beautiful country.  The country emerges itself in pool culture.   Where in Canada we build ice rinks the Hungarians build Pools.   However the pools are works of art.  The pool in Eger for example is one of the most impressive structures I have seen as the roof is meant to represent the body of an overturned wooden war ship and the entire building is adorned in wood.

The pool is perpetually busy with the likes of young and old frequenting the pool for daily laps.  We see this in Canada but the feel around the pool is less of that of training for competition, it is about the culture.  It is something that if I did not experience it, I would not believe it.  I guess the easiest way to explain it is the culture around Water Polo is that to Hungarians as Hockey is to Canada.

My role on the trip is to monitor training, recovery and to research/experience Water Polo.  It was evident on my first day why this country is so dominant in the sport.  One, the system of talent identification is present, as the shear number of kids playing Water Polo is mirror to that of kids playing hockey back home.  Secondly, the Eastern European culture produces massively imposing men.  Hanging around the pool for 6 hours a day I have come to realize that Hungarian men are what I would call “Thick”.  Big barrel chested men.  The average height of the local pro team is 6’4”, weight 235 lbs and age 28 yrs.

And after 5 days of eating here I can see why everyone can be built like brick shit houses.  For the past 5 days we have not had anything less than a three-course meal… at any meal.  The food I have been told is 80 – 90% locally grown with 80 – 90% of that being organically grown.  I think one would be hard pressed to find a vegetarian here, as meat appears to be the staple at any meal.  And the flavors are just amazing.  And Erős Pista (“EH-ROOSH PISH-TA”), which means “Strong Stevie,” is a popular brand of csípős (spicy) paprika paste produced by the Univer company. It is salty, and somewhere in the middle on the global “spiciness” scale, and often found on restaurant tables in Hungary.  That little lady from Franks has nothing on this stuff.  They really do put that s**t on everything.  I am off to the market this afternoon to pick up 5 jars.

To be continued…

 

2012 in review

Posted: December 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 3,400 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 6 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.