Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Learning from my experiences (mistakes)...

It's now my turn to write about what brought me into the world of strength and conditioning.  My history in fitness goes back to running cross country and track (the distance events) in high school.  In every step I've gotten fully immersed in my training to the point of taking it too far, backing off, and finally learning what's reasonable.

I started high school with no experience in sports - I was (am) a huge nerd - and decided to do cross country.  I started out as one of the slowest runners, horrible hunched-over running form, always in pain.  I put the time and miles in and by the time I graduated, I was consistently in the top 3 for my team.  Of course, I weighed 130 lbs at 6 feet and had no muscle on me at all.

Once I got to college, the guys in the dorm wanted to "get huge" so we started going to the gym.  Again, I started at the back of the pack, spent all my time on the machines.  I ended up getting addicted to the strength training, putting nearly 2 hours a day in hitting all of the machines for the requisite 3 sets of 10.  Later, I got talked into doing the scary "free weights" (I hate that term, call them barbells!).  My lifting partner and I did all of the bro-science at the time:  bench press, incline bench press, decline bench press, Smith machine bench press, dumbbell curls, barbell curls, reverse curls, preacher curls, ... you get the idea.  Lots of chest and arms, always skipping leg day.  I did get strong (compared to my runner self), but I'll never get the time spent on silly exercises back.

Next came graduate school.  I got in with a group of guys who loved long distance running and cycling.  With these guys 6-8 hour workouts were not uncommon.  As usual, I got fully into what they were doing and worked my way up from back of the pack to being what would be competitive if I lived anywhere other than Boulder. Since I was no longer an 18-year-old, the long slow distance, hunched over cycling position, and copious amounts of sugar water started to turn into a gut around my middle.

So then I heard about CrossFit (this was back before there were any affiliates!) and started following main site programming.  All of a sudden, my 8-hour rides turned into a ten-minute workout.  I had my day back, I was getting crazy fit, and it was time for me to go overboard with a new exercise medium.  A local affiliate finally opened up after a couple of years.  I joined, got obsessed, became top 5 in the gym, and competed in local events. Then I started getting run-down and injured (find me a CrossFitter without a shoulder injury!).

I followed the same pattern with nutrition:  power bars and gels to support cross country, tons of crap dorm food to support muscle growth, power bars and gels to support long distance running and cycling, obsessing over "Zone" proportions in Crossfit followed by strict low-carb ketogenic Paleo.

So after two decades of getting obsessed with different formats of exercise and nutrition, where am I now?  I've learned a ton!  My workouts consist of low-intensity strength building following tried-and-true routines (e.g., Starting Strength, Wendler 5/3/1, Power-to-the-People) with punctuated short high-intensity conditioning.  My nutrition is unweighed, unmeasured (un-neurotic) strict Paleo (no cheating, even for Sweet Cow ice cream!).  I may not be as lean as a high school cross country runner, or be able to do a marathon, or have a sub 3:00 Fran, but I'm infinitely more healthy, stronger, and no longer on the edge of chronic injury.  I've learned that a planned smart approach to strength and conditioning with simple nutrition can make you healthy and fit and prepare you for life.

We're excited about starting at this gym with a new (or some would say very old) approach to fitness.  We can't find what we think is right out there, so we need to take the risk and do it ourselves.  We hope that we can help you without the long period of trial-and-error that we went through.