You are a special snowflake

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

I can tell you generally how to deadlift or how to squat, but without watching you and making corrections for your proportions, I can't tell you how to deadlift or squat. I can give you broad strokes about diet and nutrition: generally low carb is good, generally you'll want to eat fewer bigger meals, etc. But not everyone responds the same to the same foods. I can tell you what works for me or what I've seen work for others, but I can't tell you exactly what to eat unless we know how you respond to different foods.

I can make adjustments in your position when lifting because I can see how you move. But we can't see how your body reacts to different foods. The best proxy for how you respond to food is blood sugar. Low blood sugar is better than high. If your body can process your food and manage the sugar quickly, you win.

What's better for you: a banana or a cookie? The one that keeps your blood sugar lower. This figure is from an article in Cell. Just like you're going to do, folks ate different types of carbs and monitored their blood sugar response afterwards.

Rather than aggregating the results, they looked at individual differences. You can see that participant 445 had a strong reaction to bananas and was unaffected by cookies. Participant 644's blood sugar soared after the cookies but was unaffected by the banana.

Figure stolen from: David Zeevi, Tal Korem, Niv Zmora, David Israeli, Daphna Rothschild, Adina Weinberger, Orly Ben-Yacov, Dar Lador, Tali Avnit-Sagi, Maya Lotan-Pompan, Jotham Suez, Jemal Ali Mahdi, Elad Matot, Gal Malka, Noa Kosower, Michal Rein, Gili Zilberman-Schapira, Lenka Dohnalová, Meirav Pevsner-Fischer, Rony Bikovsky, Zamir Halpern, Eran Elinav, Eran Segal. Personalized Nutrition by Prediction of Glycemic Responses. Cell, 2015; 163 (5): 1079 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.001

Michael Deskevich
Religious doctrine is influencing your health

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Most religions have some type of dietary restrictions built-in. Off the top of my head, I know that Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent, Jews shouldn't be eating pork or shellfish, and many Hindus or Buddhists don't eat any meat. I don't want to start a religious war (literally) over the merits of these rules, and I'm totally cool with your beliefs informing what you eat.

What you put in your body is a very personal decision informed by your experiences, your culture and/or religion, even your economics. You are free to eat whatever you want. You are also welcome to recommend to others what they should eat, as long as you disclose your biases. When folks come to me with nutritional advice, I always start with a big disclaimer about what has worked for me and what I've seen work for others. You can take my recommendations in the context of my bias.

When you read the nutritional recommendations from the American Dietetic Association, now the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, do you know their biases? They present their literature as the scientific truth. But did you know that they were started by and their mission is at the core from the Seventh Day Adventists?

I'm totally cool with the Seventh Day Adventists being vegetarian/vegan (I don't know which). It's fine with me that they think that eating meat makes you a bad person and that grains keep you wholesome. Religious and cultural beliefs are your own. But when you present your beliefs as scientific truth, that's when I have a big problem with it.

Randy sent me this article last week, but I didn't get a chance to read it until tonight. You really need to read it and then reflect on all of the nutrition advice you've heard.

Coincidentally Dan John (he uses Futura on this blog, right?) wrote this on Facebook today:

Forty years ago, the USDA and the US Senate gave us dietary recommendations. Since, 1977, it is amazing to see the change in America with less obesity, less Heart Disease, and the virtual vanishing of Diabetes. The Senate continues to lead our nation in health care issues without the interference of lobbyists and businesses.

Michael Deskevich
Leave metcons, exhaustion, stiffness, and soreness to prey.

This has been a busy end of summer, beginning of fall for me and I’ve fallen behind on my reading. I just got caught up on an article by Pavel about the quick and dead protocol.

He says all of the same things that I do! Not surprising, since I’ve learned most of my stuff from him (indirectly, through Randy). But I always appreciate the back-up. I’ve had a few folks not really buy into the lazystrong approach, and now I have another article to point them to.

Acid, the Enemy of the Quick—An Excerpt from The Quick and the Dead

I’ve been experimenting with the Q&D protocol on myself and a few test dummies. I think I have a couple of patterns set up that work well for our schedule. If you’re serious about training, have mastered the movements in the daily program, and want to commit to 3-4 days a week, talk to me. I can give you a special plan.

Michael Deskevich
A strong society is a polite society

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

“An armed society is a polite society”. - Robert A. Heinlein

The quote above is one of the most overused quotes in the gun forums, but there is a truth to it. We live in Boulder, and it's best that I don't start a war about guns, but I see parallels to this in just being strong and confident (from being strong).

Earlier this week there was a big thread in my neighborhood's private forum. It turns out that a contractor mistakenly parked in a neighbor's parking space and things quickly escalated to the cops being called. I place no blame on any one party here, the gal who called the cops had a legitimate fear that there was a creepy older man stalking her. And the guy who parked in her space had a legitimate fear that the cops were being called and his truck was going to be towed.

Rather than have a screaming match and blocking people in with your car, what would be the reasonable solution? Probably talking calmly and asking the stranger why he was in your parking space. But why didn't that happen? You never know who you're going to encounter - it could be your friendly neighborhood handyman, or it could be some predator. If you are not confident in defending yourself, you need to assume the worst and that means calling the cops. That's not a fun way to live your life. And often the escalation can become more dangerous than the original encounter.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I always assume the worst in people and am always ready to protect myself, but I don't go around calling the cops at the drop of a hat. If the same situation happened to me, I would have calmly and politely (and ready to defend myself) approached the truck to find out what was up, and I'm sure the situation would have defused rather quickly without the need to call the cops.

If you are confident in your abilities to protect yourself (and strength is the first step in that) you can probably avoid unnecessary escalations that could become dangerous. It will at least make your life less stressful.

Michael Deskevich
Surprise! Anti-Meat Science is Junk Science
No, I didn't gnaw off someone's arm: beef short ribs fresh of the smoker. Health Food!

No, I didn't gnaw off someone's arm: beef short ribs fresh of the smoker. Health Food!

If you are a meat eater you may be relieved to know that what you have intuited all along is true: meat isn't actually hurting you. Furthermore, the studies that conclude meat is bad for you are potentially far more harmful to the public health and environment than meat could ever be. I've attached links to two interesting research studies of anti-meat nutrition science for you to peruse.

Boy is Harvard/Eat-Lancet ticked off: the conclusions of the first paper (1) referenced in the failing NY Times health section Harvard scientists warned, “harm the credibility of nutrition science and erode public trust in scientific research.” Harvard scientist, Frank Hu, declared the report, “Irresponsible and unethical," and opined that nutrition studies should not be held to the same standard as studies on experimental drugs.

Really? Isn't establishing causality a fundamental scientific standard? If you say meat is harmful, and vegetarianism is better for you, shouldn't you be able to prove that? Harvard's Frank Hu doesn't seem to think so but, Dr. Dennis Bier of Baylor observed "...the studies of meat consumption are so flawed that it is naïve to assume these risk reductions are caused by eating less meat. “The rules of scientific proof are the same for physics as for nutrition." (Kolata, G., NYT, 9/30/2019)

Maybe, what really undermines the public trust in nutrition science is scientists not actually doing rigorous science and not emphasizing that epidemiological studies can only show association, not causation and what that means exactly. The public loses trust when (2) "...sensationalist misrepresentations of the scientific evidence in the mass media," whipsaw us back and forth with polar opposite recommendations.

"Although meat has been a central component of the diet of our lineage for millions of years, some nutrition authorities—who often have close connections to animal rights activists or other forms of ideological vegetarianism, (emphasis mine) such as Seventh-Day Adventism are promoting the view that meat causes a host of health problems and has no redeeming value. We contend that a large part of the case against meat is based on cherry-picked evidence and low-quality observational studies. The bald claim that red meat is an “unhealthy food” (Willett et al., 2019) is wildly unsupported." (Leroy & Cofnas, 2019)

(1) Johnston, B. C., Zeraatkar, D., Han, M. A., Vernooij, R. W. M., Valli, C., El Dib, R., … Guyatt, G. H. (2019). Unprocessed Red Meat and Processed Meat Consumption: Dietary Guideline Recommendations From the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium. Annals of Internal Medicine.

2) Leroy, F., & Cofnas, N. (2019). Should dietary guidelines recommend low red meat intake? Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 1–10.

Randy Hauer
Avoid the system - it's for your own heath
Image stolen from  my new doc .

Image stolen from my new doc.

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Trigger warning: some people may read this as a political post. There is no intention of politics made while writing this. It's just a little insight into how I think and what I hope are some ideas that you can use to help guide your life. Or not.

I often joke that I'm a crazy government-hating libertarian, and Randy and I often get into political discussions about it. But the more nuanced view is that I'm against large central control no matter where it comes from - government is just the most visible form of it. Small distributed systems are more robust and corruption proof, some would say "antifragile".

Many of you are aware that Amy and I (mostly, Amy) are homeschooling our kids. The main reason is that the entire education system now is terrible. In the last two generations we transitioned essentially from one-room school houses with incredibly local control over your schooling to federally mandated teach-to-the test standards with no local control. I don't think anyone can make the case that our education system is keeping up with the world, or even simply doing a good job educating children. It's great at turning out mindless factory workers - at the precise time that factory work is going away!

Rather than fight it (you can't, the central control is just too strong), we're avoiding the system. Sure I'll keep paying my taxes - and it's really bad for me, I own a house in one of Colorado's most coveted school districts. So we pay to support a system that we won't ever use. I don't complain (much) about it, it's just my way of dealing with this system.

The same thing is happening in health care. We used to have much more local control over our providers and the services we wanted. Now it's all federally mandated standards of care that simply make you a cog in the system with essentially no options for customization to your preferences and needs.

I had a fairly serious illness about a decade ago, and I had cheap crappy grad-student health insurance. But I got the best possible care around and everything was personalized to what I needed. Other than the fact that I was sick and it really sucked, the care providers were a pleasure to deal with.

Now that we have kids we have to deal with the (trigger warning) post-Obamacare world. I have the federally mandated insurance that I need to have. I go to a provider that follows all of the standards of care. And guess what, it's terrible. Our doctor's office is over crowded to the point where they can't even make time to get back to you. The waits are bad, and the care is just check-the-box style of care. Just do what they need to report and report what they can to get reimbursed. FYI, the average caseload for a PCP that accepts Obamacare compliant insurance is 3,000 and the average face-time per visit is 8 minutes.

So we left that office (and all of the standard-of-care offices are pretty much the same - we've done some research). We're following the homeschooling pattern - though we (mostly Amy) aren't arrogant enough to think we can do this one on our own. We joined an out-of-the-system medical practice. Our new doc has a cap of 250-300 for her practice, and we spent more than 2 hours getting check-ups for all four of us (so, an average of more than 30 minutes).

Our new place doesn't even deal with the insurance companies. We pay a monthly membership and we get access to the practice. We can directly email our doc without HIPAA getting cranky, and she can give us advice over the phone. It's a wonderful experience. Our doc has a direct incentive to help us, because if we don't like what we're getting, we take our money elsewhere. It's not like having a third and fourth party in there being a buffer between our doc and us. Her costs are really low since she doesn't need to do any insurance paperwork, hire an insurance coder to maximize the number of ICD9 (or is it now ICD10) codes to charge for, or any of that overhead. The entire system cost is a fraction of the standard medical care system.

So yet again, I'm paying for a system that I hopefully will never need to use while also paying for my personal care. God forbid that we ever go to a (trigger warning) single-payer system - then there is no incentive to work with me since my money and my attention is meaningless. In fact, with the direct provider system, my doc has an incentive to keep me healthy - If I pay my monthly membership and don't use the services, she wins. In the current system, the incentive is to continuously treat but not cure anything, that way they keep the recurring insurance payments coming in. So while this personally costs me more, it is so much more in line with my philosophy that I have to do it.

If you can, I urge you to check it out - I'm sure there are closer direct providers than mine who is all the way in Denver, but I got a personal recommendation from an old friend who knows this system well, so that's why I'm making the trek out of the bubble. Or you can keep eating your hearthealthywholegrains and stay reliant on the system.

Michael Deskevich
Sign up for the TSC

TSC: Saturday, October 26

I put the TSC announcement up on the board this week. We already have a bunch of sign-ups! Yay! Since we’ll have Blake (and Tim?) plus Enrique and Michelle as SFGs this year, there may be enough judges that I can actually participate this year. We’ll see if I feel like doing another 5:00 snatch test - it will at least be a good test of Q&D.

I put the TSC on the schedule (here) - please sign up there so I don’t have to check you in during the confusion of getting set up in the morning.

Visiting competitors, make sure you create an account with us, sign the waiver, and enroll in the event. Please do it before you show up, it makes it easier for us to get started if all of the paperwork is done.

When will we get started?

We'll have the doors open by 10:00 AM with the hopes of starting the first lift at 10:30.

After you have your waiver signed, feel free to warm up. We have six lifting platforms, two will be reserved for the competition and the other four ready for warm ups. Please don't steal the weights from the competition platforms when you're warming up. For those of you lifting later in the flight, feel free to warm up during the competition - just be respectful when someone is actually lifting.

How does the TSC work?

The three exercises that make up the Tactical Strength Challenge are:

  1. A max powerlifting deadlift (three attempts)

  2. Pull ups for max reps (palms forward, no kipping, chin must clear the bar) or a flexed arm hang (in the Novice Women’s category)

  3. Kettlebell snatches for max reps in a 5:00 time period (unlimited hand switches and different weights for different competitor categories).

The events are performed in the following order: deadlift, pullups, snatches. Each competitor will be given at least 15 minutes of rest between events but it will be more likely 30 minutes. We make sure that everyone is done with each event before we go on to the next.

Michael Deskevich
Maximize your healthspan
Image stolen from

Image stolen from

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

I read a great article this weekend over at World Economic Forum* about the lives of masters athletes vs regular folks.

tl;dr: people who train for sport their whole life may only live slightly longer, but their years are much better and healthier.

Basically masters athletes stay young until there's a rapid decline and that's it. There's no long, slow, (expensive) decline with lots of suffering. But let's not dwell on that, let's look at how we all can stay healthy and active for years to come. The article focuses mostly on masters athletes because it's an easy cohort to study, but the takeaway is that being strong and putting on muscle is probably the best thing anyone can do to increase their "healthspan".

I quote from the article:

1) Move more. Take a moment and consider how long you spend sitting each day. Simply moving more, and moving more regularly throughout the day, even if you have to set an alarm to remind yourself to stand up and walk around now and again, can have a powerful influence on reducing the risk of disease, death and improving quality of life. 

2) Move slow. Aiming to accumulate 10,000 steps each day has become a common means to increase daily physical activity. While some studies have not been supportive, many have demonstrated that increasing step count, and trying to integrate additional steps into your day to reach the 10,000 target, can be beneficial in terms of increasing physical activity and health. 

3) Move fast. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) involves repeated bouts of high-intensity effort, followed by varied recovery times. A typical HIIT session could last between 20 and 60 minutes, but even shorter sessions have been demonstrated to be beneficial. A 2012 study among healthy, but sedentary men and women, demonstrated that 10-minute high-intensity cycling sessions, repeated three times per week for six weeks, improved health and fitness markers, including a 28% increase in insulin sensitivity and 12-15% improvement in VO2 max. 

4) Move heavy. After turning 50, muscle mass begins to decrease at a rate of 1-2% per year, and muscle strength declines at 1.5–5% per year. Having more functional muscle may be associated with a 'whole-body neuro-protective effect’ and while more research is required, muscular strength appears to play an important and independent role in the prevention of cardiovascular heart disease. Being in the top 25% of muscle mass for your age-group appears to be a significant positive predictor of longevity. Peak muscle power is an important predictor of how well we’ll function in old-age. Try to include resistance training as part of your life, at least two-times per week. This could involve completing 8-12 repetitions, of 8-10 different exercises, that target all major muscle groups.

Who does that sound like? Maybe it's confirmation bias, but smart strength training with lots of low-level "cardio" with short excursions into high intensity is exactly what I've been prescribing. I think it's the key to success.

*Why would the "World Economic Forum" be writing about a topic like this? Well there are two things that scare me about the future: 1) the DOD has a report out that basically states that the lack of fitness of our youth is a national security risk - we can't find enough healthy folks to keep the military as strong as it needs to be to defend our country, and 2) the NHS predicts that by 2030 300% (yes, 300%!) of our GDP will need to go to fund health care for diabetes and related (Alzheimer, to be specific) illnesses.  Think about that: the country will need to spend $3 for every $1 that we make just to keep people alive. That's not sustainable no matter what healthcare model you believe in.

Your future health and wellness is your responsibility. You need to be strong and you can't rely on the system to take care of you. At the current rates, the math doesn't work out. Get in the gym, train with weights, and eat right. Even if the system doesn't collapse, do you want to be strong and healthy or do you want a long, slow decline? It really is up to you and what you do now.

Michael Deskevich
Not being Embarassed

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

This weekend Amy and I starting watching a new Netflix Original documentary series about artists. My interpretation are that these people are pretty big in their fields, but not so household-name famous. One comment that one of the artists made about how he does his work really resonated with me: his whole goal is to not be embarrassed by what he shows.

In my day job, I'm a software engineer. A good chunk of my time is spent reviewing plans for development or the actual code after the fact. I'm sure it annoys my coworkers, but I don't have a script or a checklist for what makes a good design or how to know what well-written code looks like. I've always argued that great software is more of an art than a science (though, I am a stickler for good computer science too!). One thing that I've said many times in a review is "That's fine, I wouldn't be embarrassed to ship that", or "Hell no! I'm not shipping that, I would be embarrassed to have my name on it," or "Wouldn't you be embarrassed to explain how that works?"

I have the same criterion for the S&C programming. There are a couple of semi-famous (that is, big in their field, but not household names) S&C folks that I read. I always imagine if they came into the gym and asked how I did my programming - my goal is always to not be embarrassed when explaining what we do.

There are so many ways to do things wrong (in both software engineering and S&C programming) that your goal shouldn't be to shoot for the moon (unless you were writing software for the Apollo missions), but to follow the basics and do them so well that you're comfortable with what you produce. The best artists get to the top by repeated application of the basics.

Michael Deskevich
Save the Date: Fall Tactical Strength Challenge - October 26

We’re a month out from my favorite semi-annual event: the Tactical Strength Challenge. This year, gyms around the world will be competing on October 26, and we’ll be participating again. It looks like we’re the only gym in Colorado that’s participating, so that’s cool!

What is the Tactical Strength Challenge? All the details are here, but the gist is that we compete in three events: the deadlift (3-attempts, powerlifting rules), pull-ups (one attempt at max reps), and kettlebell snatches (AMRAP in 5:00). It’s the perfect combination of absolute strength, relative strength, and metabolic conditioning in one day.

If you want an official world-wide score (and a fancy t-shirt) register with Strong First (here). But if you just want to show up and have fun at the gym on a Saturday morning, you don’t need to register.

The whole kettlebell community is welcome to participate at Barbell Strategy - you don’t need to be a member to come for the TSC. If you’ve never been here, just create an account with us and sign the waiver, and you’ll be good to go.

I’ll have more details as the day gets closer, but usually we get started around 10:00 AM Saturday, with the first flight of deadlifting starting around 10:30. Everything is usually done a bit after noon.

Michael Deskevich
Complexity, Scale, Workouts and Antifragility
Your workout shouldn't be like the machine - "Instead of sucking water, we're sucking life.’

Your workout shouldn't be like the machine - "Instead of sucking water, we're sucking life.’

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

I was working on another post about the benefits of short duration intense workouts and long work at very low intensity and staying away from the moderate intensity stuff. Then I got distracted on the faceplace and Nassim Taleb had a great post (linked to below) which was related to my original topic, so I'm going to take the easy way out and use his post as a jumping off point. (Don't worry, I'll still write my original rant later - you won't miss out on that one.)

It turns out that animals of all scales from the tiniest shrew to the largest whale all have one thing in common: they live for about 1 billion heartbeats (humans are special in that we can extend that to 2 billion - but it's still within the order of magnitude). That's pretty cool when you think about it how there is a fundamental constant that arises across all scales.

So if you have a limited number of heartbeats, where do you want to spend them? By going low and very slow, you can build a good base without using up to many of your beats. But that's not enough, you do need to create a stressor for your body to get stronger, so we go high but for such a short time that the extra beats don't really add up.

For example: take the typical boot-camp style workout where you're bringing your heart rate up to the "fat burning zone" for an hour. For me, the "fat burning zone" is somewhere near 165bpm, my resting heart rate is about 65bpm. So the boot-camp workout would have me using up an extra 100bpm for an hour, wasting 6000 of my 1 billion beats.

If we do a quick tabata-style sprint, that's only 4 minutes of work at max effort. For me that's about 180bpm, so I'd be using up an extra 115bpm for 4 minutes or an extra 460 beats.

Essentially, you not only get a more time-effective workout you get more of a training effect for less mortality cost. The same goes for your very slow workouts - if you don't raise your heart rate too much above baseline, you can built your base with little cost too.

Michael Deskevich
Insight from the playground

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Today I had a good reminder of the importance of natural movement when I was at the playground with the boys. As usual, I followed them around and monkeyed around on the equipment a bit - climbing, hanging, sliding, jumping, walking, running, pushing. And I realized I feel so much better and have so much less pain than I did when my day job was sitting at a desk. Here I had this incredible variety of movements and positions, things that children choose naturally. And what do many of us do to ourselves for years, if not decades? We sit still in one place for hours.

Now, not everyone can or wants to make the escape from office work that I did. But we so often are sore, injured, sick, propping ourselves up with caffeine, sugar, and prescriptions, that we need to question what we are doing. We can question why we value being focused or productive, or failing that, appearing busy. Years in school trained us to be good students, to be quiet and still, to stay at our desks and complete a task. But that is not good for us, physically, intellectually, or creatively. Getting into a flow state where you're absorbed in your work is great, but it really can't happen all day - you know you're just killing time with busywork.

If you have an office job where you normally behave like a good worker, I urge you to be a little bit of a "problem student". Get up, move around, get outside for a bit if you can. Be the person who gets up to get a drink of water or goes to the bathroom twice an hour. Be aware of your posture, how you're moving, and go ahead and be restless. Move your body to rest your mind, and you'll come back with better ideas. We live in a knowledge economy, not a factory economy, and it's time we started fighting to act like the vibrant, variable human animals we are, not steady-output machines.

Amy Santamaria
Why does he program so many TGUs?

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Last week I got a great question about our programming: "Why do you program so many TGUs?"  You may have noticed that TGUs show up in the accessory/skill portion of the workout a lot. Why do I do that?

I don't want you to die early.

It turns out that the inability to get down on the ground and get back up to standing is one of the best correlates with early death [pop science version] [original article]. (blah blah blah correlation is not causation, I know.)  But there are some good reasons why the ability to get down and get back up is so important. 

It shows full body strength. Even without any weight, just sit down on the floor and get back up 5-10 times. I'll wait... I bet you're out of breath. It's a non-trivial task to get down and get up all the time (ask a mom of tiny children who are always running away). Strength is also highly correlated with long life, so when people lose the ability to get down and get up, it's a good sign that other things are going wrong too. So I figure we should train the TGU often so that you'll develop and keep that strength. Lack of grip strength is another strong correlate with early death. The explanation is generally that when your brain can't talk to your hands well it's a sign that bad things are happening. Since you need to death-grip the bell in a TGU, we're also working on keeping your brain talking to your muscles.

It increases coordination among the big muscles. A common cause of death or at least severe mobility issues in older folks is falling. It's all too common to hear about an older person falling and breaking a hip and then not making it out of the hospital. The reason older people fall down is that 1) they're not coordinated anymore and a small trip becomes catastrophic and 2) when they do try to catch themselves from falling they're not strong enough to not fall down. In addition to the TGU making you stronger, it also forces your entire kinetic chain to work together, helping your coordination.

It's useful. I mean, who ever said, I wish it were harder to get up and down. It's something that we do all the time, so having it be easier will make your life better.

What if I hate TGUs? Is there anything else I can do? Yes! You can go full Katy Bowman and rid your house of furniture. I want to do that, but Amy's not sold yet. Sitting in chairs and letting your muscles atrophy is not doing you any good.

Michael Deskevich
6 weeks to a (New/Best) (Life/Self/You) challenge

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

If you've been paying attention social media, during the new year you were probably bombarded with lots of ads for 6 weeks to a new/best life/self/you challenge. It's usually marketed as a "huge opportunity" for people in [your] area. It sounds like it's a new program at your local gym.

If you dig into these things you'll see that they're another example of a meta marketing campaign. The fitness industry is full of these programs that manage all of the marketing, programming, and even nutrition plans. A gym signs up and they handle the billing and send clients their way. All the gym has to do is just blindly follow the program they send.

It annoys me that gyms do this. They make it seem like they're giving you something special, but they're giving you something created by some internet marketer. We think it's irresponsible to blindly assign programming and nutrition advice from someone who doesn't even know you. You can find pre-written stuff like that for free on the internet everywhere (and that's what it's worth), so why pay for it under the guise of custom programming?

Michael Deskevich
New hardstyle programming for the fall

It’s time to start a new cycle with a new emphasis. We spent the last couple of months really focused on the powerlifts. I always like to do a dedicated intense strength cycle in the summer when you can take advantage of all of the good growth hormones that the sun gives you.

Now we start our long slow depressing slide into cold and darkness.

I’m going to transition to a simpler program that’s easier to modify day-to-day as you judge how your feeling. The pattern for the next couple of months will be:

Kettlebell strength-endurance warm-up - use this as check-in time with your body. Go heavy enough that it’s a challenge, but don’t go crazy. Even start light and add weight each set.

Olympic lift - we’ll do an easy-strength style structure on the Olympic lifts - one lift each day, so you’ll get a ton of practice. Don’t go crazy heavy on this unless you’re feeling it. This is practice time!

Powerlift - we’ll use a Soviet wave structure on the main powerlift of the day. I prescribe it only as light-medium-heavy. Keep a log so you know what that means for you for each lift. I’m going to use Blake’s rules here: if you lift more than 100 (well, 95 since you’re not allowed to use the 2 1/2 plates) then the 5 pound plates are also off limits. That means all weight jumps are 20 lbs. You need to own a weight before you go up when you’re making 20 lbs jumps. Focus, concentrate, and know your lifts!

Carry/AGT - and we’ll end the day with a carry or heavy AGT.

Be sure to self-regulate here. This should be easy enough that you can do it all 5 days.

Michael Deskevich
Are you paying boutique prices for standard service?

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Since as early as 2009 Starbucks has been opening fake independent coffee shops. I personally have nothing against Starbucks, but I know some people do not like the big evil corporate nature of the company. The reason Starbucks is so successful is consistency. Wherever you go you'll get the same brew. People don't want to risk getting a bad cup of coffee at Joe's Coffee Shack down the street, so they go with what they know. But, they may missing out on what could be a much better experience. Starbucks also has the economy of scale, so even though they're expensive, they're still cheaper for the same quality as you would get at the independent coffee next door.

Whether it's to do market research or to capture the independent coffee shop die-hards, Starbucks has chosen to remove their branding and open coffee shops that look independent. They can sell their same coffee at a higher independent coffee shop price and the customers don't know any better.

I'm seeing the same thing in the fitness industry. In the last ten years or so there has been an explosion of small independent gyms as a reaction to the large chains (like 24-Hour Fitness). A large gym chain needs to cater to the lowest common denominator, they need to give you a consistent product at a cheap price. They're unable to provide you with the experience that works best for you - to survive they need to provide a mediocre service that works okay for the most people. Small gyms give you the option to find what works best for you.

We're a strength-focused gym with our roots in Olympic weightlifting. If you want to get strong or get the best weightlifting instruction in the area, you should come to us. I know of about a half dozen other small local gyms that would be better for you if you wanted something else. The key is that you have optionality, so you can find what works for you. If it were all chain gyms everywhere, you'd get the same milquetoast experience no matter where you went. The optionality is great for you, and it is great for the industry as a whole. But it's really hard on the individual gyms. We don't have the economies of scale, so we have to necessarily be more expensive and we cater to a smaller market.

I'm proud of the product we offer, what you see is the best of what Mike, Amy, Randy, and Jordan come up with. You know the people who are writing your programming, you know our philosophies because you read ourwords here. You know when you come in exactly what you're getting. The trouble is that the rest of the small gym industry is insidiously transforming into fake independent coffee shops.

There are a number of companies out there that produce entire "gym systems" for the small gym owner. It's not just websites, it's programming, it's content, it's all of the marketing. Basically, you're getting the lowest common denominator experience that is fake customized for you. I get pitches like this all the time: "All you do is fill out a few questionnaires and our copywriters are off and running writing every single line of copy that appears on your website. That includes all of the lead gen assets (eBooks), your coach’s bios, everything!"

Do you want to pay a premium for a small gym membership when you're getting the same bland product that's going to all the other small gyms? Or do you want to train at a place with a consistent philosophy that fits your goals? At least with us, you know exactly what you're getting. Can you even tell that your small gym is really providing you a personalized experience, or just maybe, are you getting re-branded messaging from someone hundreds of miles away?

Michael Deskevich
"The Candy Diet" and why we won't use it to market quick fixes for health

From The Archives - I’m going back through the old blog and reposting some of the best articles.

Candy sells, but it's horrible for you. A nuanced, intellectual approach is hard to market, but we're going to fight for it.

I read this post by Seth Godin today. It's about how increasingly anti-intellectual our culture is becoming, and it resonated with me. Go read it - it's not long and he says it better than I can.

It has bothered me for a while that it seems to succeed in business, you need to reduce everything down to a catchy sound bite. You have to appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to capture market share and the ever-sought-after clicks. Nowhere is this more true than in the fitness industry. But our gym does not do that and never has. We actually have a pretty hard sell. Instead of promising you a sexier body in 30 days or a super fun, high powered, fat burning party of a workout, we urge you to commit to long-term strength training and skill development and to educate yourself on the complexities of health. We're so not sexy, instead of shiny cartons of supplements for sale we have a dusty lending library of reference books by Ph.D.s and obscure Russians. Our message of "get strong so you don't die too soon" doesn't drive a lot of traffic. We're not flashy, we don't sell quick fixes, and we don't promise quick results. And yes, we get pretty intellectual about things from time to time.

Don't look for this to change anytime soon. We're here to help people get healthy and strong. We'd rather grow slowly and effect real change than sell hype we can't live up to.

Michael Deskevich
Taylor Completed the Grand Traverse Triple Crown this year!

Here’s a great way to use your fitness: In march Taylor skied from Crested Butte to Aspen - 40 miles, I think 20-some hours. And then on Labor Day weekend, he ran the same course in about 10 ish hours followed by a reverse trip on a mountain bike the next day.

This is serious back-country high-altitude endurance work with tons of elevation gain. His training was two days a week of AGT and strength at the gym plus a bunch of long slow distance at altitude on the weekend. It’s almost like what we say actually works!

He was able to train all year for this even and never got injured! That’s really the benefit of the strength training. He absolutely needed to put the time in on the trail all year (like running the entire switz every weekend - right past my old house!), but without being strong he would have had some over-use injuries. The consistent work paid off!

Congratulations Taylor!

Michael Deskevich