Beating the average is not a good metric for your health.

I know it's an old joke, but this conversation actually happened to me years ago at Rocky Mountain National Park. Amy and I were visiting the park with our friend Zach. And we always end up doing stupid stuff when we're with Zach - but it's always really fun. We happened to be up at the park during Elk rutting season. We got pretty close and I started to get uncomfortable and suggested that maybe we back up a little. Amy said, it's ok, we're faster than them, and pointed to the out-of-state tourists.

We often compare ourselves with what's out there - it's human nature. An as long as we're "beating the average" we often feel good about that. But with health, the average is so bad, you need to do so much better.

We were at our doc for the boys' yearly checkup. (disclaimer: I'm really biased and I hate doctors and hospitals and the whole medical system, so I try to avoid it as much as possible) And even with our really great doc who's outside of the Obamacare system, we still just were going through the checklists to make sure the kids were doing "what they're supposed" to be doing at their age. 

It annoyed me, I know they're healthy, I know they eat well, and they're so crazy there's no way they'd ever be considered inactive. But we just kept going through the checklists, putting their numbers on the charts and comparing them to the rest of the unhealthy sugar-eating population (which, by the way, makes them look underweight!).

What annoyed me is that there was no real absolute metric that they were looking at. It was just comparison with "the norms". I guess it makes sense, there's no real way to define health - at least when you're in the health care system. Health care isn't really about wellness, it's about treating disease.

That got me thinking about health in general. When you look at the state of health and fitness in the country, it's easy to think that you're doing well just because you're doing better than average. But when the average is so weak and sick, it's not a good comparison. Last week I had to hire some movers to get a big piece of furniture delivered. I like to think that relative to the population, heck even relative to the average gym-going population, I'm pretty strong. But these guys who actually do real work for a living were so much stronger than me.

It's easy to see how regression to the mean can hurt a population. Once we make it acceptable to be weak, then everyone becomes weak because there's no comparison to strong folks. Let's stop worrying about if we're beating the average - let's just try to get stronger and healthier than we are today and keep progressing. 

Michael Deskevich
Don't miss out on the Kinstretch class

I haven't done a good job of marketing the Kinstretch class. I don't want you to forget about it. Wednesdays at 7:30 AM, and Saturdays at 9:00 and 10:15 - note, we're moving it up to 10:15 instead of 10:30 to give us some buffer with the weightlifting club.

I know that a few of you are taking advantage of it, and everyone who's tried it loves it! I've seen Traci and Bridget do a few classes and they're great instructors. Maybe one day, the hellions will let me get out of the house early on a Saturday and try it myself soon!

We added a 1-month unlimited pass for $99. If you are going to go to more than 4 classes a month, be sure to buy the 1-month pass. 

If the weekly dose of Kinstretch isn't enough for you - follow up with Traci and Bridget, they do 1 on 1 work with a personalized plan of Functional Range Conditioning. 

Michael Deskevich
Yoga and Boot camps aren't working!
 Maybe I should get a man bun.

Maybe I should get a man bun.


Last week Amy and I had a rare break from our hellions. So we were actually able to take advantage of the beautiful South Boulder trails we live near. It wasn't one of the popular trails, so the folks we saw were definitely not tourists, and very likely South Boulder locals like us. We probably passed about a dozen folks while we were out.

Every single one of them looked frail and weak. Most were hiking tentatively with walking poles over only slightly rough ground. Their knees were shaky (like I always yell at you for when you're squatting), their arms were tiny and weak. And these were the fit people, the ones actually out on the trail!

Amy's comment was: "Why aren't we making a killing at the gym? We should have a wait list. Everyone needs us!".  It's true! But can you blame them when this is what's presented as health and fitness in the most fit city in the country!

If you don't want to click that link, it's the health and fitness section of the Daily Camera - we were once feature in there but have since been pushed off the main page by yoga and boot camps. As I write this, the workouts featured on the main page are (in order) yoga, dance, walking, yoga, yoga, boot camp, yoga, yoga, yoga, boot camp, yoga, kickboxing, yoga, yoga, crossfit, dance, HIIT, HIIT, yoga, HIIT.

We need to redefine fitness. It's not about doing hard things, it's about actually becoming a stronger, more capable human. Doing things that feel hard is just giving you a false sense of security. 

Make sure the time you spend in the gym is actually improving your life. You have a finite amount of time each day, so use it wisely. Get strong so that you can have fun. Sarah uses it for dancing. Another member just left for a month in Kathmandu to go hiking around the Annapurna range. You can't be weak and do that!

Michael Deskevich
Recovery should be built into the programming

I've been having fun hanging out with Blake in the evenings. He quotes all the same folks that I do, and reads all the same stuff I read. He's a great match for the gym. 

We've been spending some time really digging into programming. What's really interesting is that we approach programming very differently but we end up in the same place. Our programs look very similar.

One thing we agree on is that the program needs to have recovery built in. It's a challenge to do that when you're programming for a whole gym full of folks who have different schedules, but we have some good techniques to make it work. 

While I was gearing up for my anti-HIIT rant and my anti-Ibuprofen rant, this new article was posted on the Strong First blog, and it all came together: All of the stresses you have during the day add up - bad sleep, bad food, traffic, soul-sucking-job, your workouts - and your body can't tell the difference. You can't live a stress-free life, you'd have nothing to adapt to and you'd waste away to nothing. You need to make sure that your workout fits in in the context of the stresses of your day, week, month...  If you need to stop working out to recover from your workouts, you're doing it wrong - going hard everyday is not the path to long-term success. 

You want to avoid the constant high-intensity work. Even if you have your "muscle confusion" and "always change things up so you don't get bored", you're still working only one metabolic pathway, constantly stressing your body and not letting it recover. You'll end up getting injured, metabolically run down, and sore all the time.

The way we approach our recovery is to have variability built into the cycles so that you never have to explicitly stop to recover. I typically do it with changing thing up like having separate AGT days and strength days. Blake has been working on deconstructing some of the Plan Strong ideas which have a really neat fractal self similar pattern to them.

In the end it all comes back to antifragility and the original barbell strategy, you are a convex function and you grow stronger with variability.

Michael Deskevich
Here's why Ibuprofen and exercise don't mix
 This is how I feel when you ask me if 3x5 means 3 sets of 5 or 5 sets of 3..

This is how I feel when you ask me if 3x5 means 3 sets of 5 or 5 sets of 3..

So, you're addicted to your HIIT workouts, and now you're so sore that you need to take Ibuprofen to function in daily life. Here's why you shouldn't do that.

Don't take it before your workout. I think it's pretty common knowledge that Ibuprofen puts your tendons at a higher risk of rupture.  I don't remember the mechanism, I just read that article a long time ago.  

Don't take it after your workout. I won't go into the studies here either, but things that dull your body's response to a workout also prevent you from getting stronger from the workout. I remember reading about long-distance cyclists downing vitamin E after a long workout. The antioxidant effect of vitamin E meant that the body didn't see the inflammation from the workout, so it never adapted. I would imagine the same thing happens with Ibuprofen - it manages the inflammation before your body gets to see it.  

Just don't take it at all. But it's it better to get that hard workout in that makes you all swole and then just recover with some Ibuprofen, right? Well not if you like having testosterone: Ibuprofen alters human testicular physiology to produce a state of compensated hypogonadism.

Strength training - heavy, slow, non-glycolytic - is one of the best ways to stimulate your body to make more testosterone. Testosterone is good for you (and not just for guys) it makes you feel good, it helps you get stronger, you want testosterone. But if you do too much work and then rely on the Ibuprofen and you'll be going backward. 

Michael Deskevich
Hate heroin? Just try it once, you might like it.
 photo stolen from linked article

photo stolen from linked article

I love it when folks send me articles to rant about. It saves me time, and lets me know what you're interested in reading about.

This is going to be part 1 of a 3-part series on the perils of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT, is what the cool kids all say) and how our style of training gets you better results while limiting the downside.

The article Michael sent me is titled "Hate High-Intensity Exercise? Try It. You Might Like It: Just trying a H.I.I.T. workout for the first time may be a critical step in including high-intensity training as part of your everyday routine." (It's NYTimes, so it may be paywalled if you go over your allotment.  (See here for other sources to the article.)

It's really hard to get started in an exercise routine. We see it every new year. This is the time you're finally going to go running every day. It always fails. But it's not your fault. It's your biochemistry. Years ago Tom from the Fat Head movie wrote about The Rider and The Elephant. He was talking about the biochemistry that makes all diets fail. It's the same thing with exercise. If you don't get what you need, your brain will take over and you can't control your brain. It will do what it (thinks) it needs to to get what it (thinks) it needs. 

In the case of diet, if you try to starve yourself on a low fat diet, your brain panics because you need fat and makes you crave fat until you get it. You can't control your brain, it's like a rider on an elephant. The rider can make suggestions, but the elephant will go wherever it wants. You can try to "be good" and starve yourself, but eventually your brain wins. We see it as a lack of willpower, but it's really your biochemistry winning.

With exercise it's the same thing, those long slogs running on the road every New Years puts you brain in panic mode and eventually you don't make it outside any more. Same with the endless cardio on the treadmill at the gym. 

But there's a way to short circuit that: HIIT! According to the NYTimes article, just trying one HIIT workout is enough to kickstart you into a routine. I don't disagree with that. That's one of the reasons CrossFit is so big (and now all the silly copy cats too). HIIT is addictive. (Maybe I can have Part 1B of this article be Amy's neuroscience discussion on what's really happening).

HIIT release endorphins quickly and en-mass (unlike long distance cardio which doles them out slower). You feel great after a workout. It's almost a high. Really, it's your body going into shock. It's not evolutionary advantageous to have PTSD after being chased by a lion, so our brains adapted to make it more pleasant.

That's same mechanism with HIIT: you push your body farther and harder than it should, it tries to mitigate that with feel-happy chemicals in your brain. It's very addictive. You start training more often and harder to get that hit (pun intended). You start over reaching, you get injured, you get depressed when you can't make to the gym because of your injury. I've seen it over and over again, and I still see it on my friends' Instagram feeds. YOU SHOULD NOT BE CHRONICALLY INJURED IF YOU'RE AN AMATEUR ATHELETE!!! Thats's a problem!

HIIT workouts are addictive and destructive. Even if you don't get injured, you're bathing your cells in acid. See here, here, and here. You may enjoy them. I know I did. I was lucky enough that I was young enough and didn't do them long enough to cause any permanent damage. Don't get lured into HIIT, and if you're stuck, quit now and come see us - our AGT approach will get you the same metabolic conditioning without the damage (and unfortunately the addiction that keeps you coming back - maybe I should start handing out free coffee).

Michael Deskevich
AGT - I drank the Kool-Aid
 Image credit -  Boulder Swing Dance

Image credit - Boulder Swing Dance

I was on board with the idea of AGT from the beginning... As a dancer, the idea of being able to dance faster for longer was appealing to me, and I thought it would be a fun experiment to try! I did a lot of it last fall/winter leading up to a trip I took where I knew I was going to be dancing for 8-ish hours a day for around 12 days. That's a lot. Usually after a dance event (3-4 days), you feel like your legs are going to fall off, but not this time! I danced until there was no more music to dance to, and instead of my body being destroyed after the trip, I merely needed a little extra sleep.

So I have continued to do AGT workouts. Fast forward to a week or two ago. I'm at a dance where the band is playing New Orleans jazz (think bouncy and fast). I have a couple dances with my friend Andrew, who lifts weights and is a generally fit person, and at the end of the second song, he's sweating and breathing heavily. I barely broke a sweat dancing with him, and he's like "How in the world are you so okay after that???" And I danced the whole night and barely sat out for any songs, while most of my fellow (even very experienced) dancers were gasping for air. So that was the real light bulb moment for me- this really does work! 

Now I know most (all of?) you are not dancers, but the same principle applies for running, biking, hiking, or pretty much anything else you can do. Train AGT and then go out and do ALL the fun things!

Sarah Siertle
Playing with kids is like a road block on The Amazing Race
2018-06-07 10.50.44.jpg

See that lake behind Illy and me? I carried water from that lake for over an hour yesterday. 

I had the day off work for an appointment in the afternoon. Since I was home, I went out to Boulder Open Space and Mount Park's Nature Play Program in the morning at Teller Lake. I thought I'd just get to hang out in the shade while the kids went crazy. Turns out I was wrong.

They all wanted to play with water and mud and couldn't get water out of the lake safely, so I got to carry buckets of water up for them. Of course they spill it and I have to get more. and more. and more...for an hour.

It felt like a challenge on The Amazing Race: "For this road block, you need to carry a hundred buckets of water up this steep incline to keep the local children happy. When they are satisfied, you will be handed your next clue."

I never get to go to these kids events since I'm normally at work. What surprised me was how none of the other parents could participate. No one had the strength or balance to even walk off the trail, let alone carry buckets of water on steep uneven ground. And don't even mention endurance, the irrational toddlers don't understand why you need to stop, they just want the next bucket of water! Playing is hard work.

This is why we train here. It's not to set power lifting records. It's to be strong enough that we can do fun things. Getting strong should have a higher purpose. We put the effort in the gym so that the rest of your day goes better. You don't want to be worried about falling on an uneven trail unable to carry your kid. You want your time outside to be easy because you worked hard in the gym.

Michael Deskevich
It's so hard to describe what we do

I get a ton of spam marketing all kinds of fitness crap. I can tell what they're all doing - just doing a google search for "gyms near boulder" and then putting my email in their auto responders. 

If they took any time to read the blog they'd know that I'm totally against the standard model of fitness. But they're all too lazy for that.

I generally just ignore the emails because as soon as you reply, they know there's a warm body on the other end and you'll never get rid of them. However, there's one that just won't stop even though I haven't replied - their emails go into the abyss, but they keep coming.

I'm really annoyed by these folks because their business model is exactly the opposite of what we do - and they'd know that if they did a little research. They've done a tiny bit of work to know that they should tailor their email to mention "kettlebells," but that's it.

The fitness industry is all about offering some kind of drop-in-any-time-you-want group class. You go in, get your random workout, leave sweaty and tired. But you don't get any fitter. There is no loyalty - the instructors don't care if it's a class of newbs or veterans; they do the same thing every time. The customers don't care where they go, as long as they can leave sweaty and tired. There's no progression, no learning, no growth.

The business model of this place that keeps emailing me is that they get millennial hipsters to pay them a monthly fee and then they can go to any participating gym for a drop-in. They charge about $10-$15 a class. I'm sure they keep half and the other half goes to the gym. So that's like $5 a person. 

I love when I get a new person, because I get to introduce them to how we do things. A new person takes almost all of my attention in class. But it's worth it if they understand what we do and join. I don't want to get a flood of folks who just randomly try a class. I'd either have to spend all of my time with them neglecting you guys or I'd have to dumb down my programming so that any random drop-in could do it with no instruction. Either way, you'd lose.

But isn't it good marketing? No, not for the kind of folks who'd like what we do. It takes a while to understand what we do. I love when we get a new person to try us out, but inside I always feel bad because no matter when someone drops in, the workout isn't representative of what we do. Any single workout looks random and has lots of technical things to learn. No one workout that we do can capture our programming; you have to look at it as a whole to understand it. 

Our approach to fitness is really about teaching you how to get fit and then progressing you every time you come in to learn something new. Writing the programming for you is nontrivial. I have to make it so that anyone can start any time, miss an arbitrary number of workouts, and still get stronger and healthier.  I'm so happy that we have a strong community of people that understand this and keep coming back for more. Even you who put up with my experimental programs that aren't as well thought out.

Michael Deskevich
Invert, Always Invert

Invert, always invert.
  -Carl Jacobi

Mathematician, Carl Jacobi was a big fan of attacking problems from a different angle and suggested that when you get stuck solving a problem, you should try to solve the inverse problem. He was a big fan of changing coordinate systems - he even invented the Jacobian for changing coordinate systems, so he might be a little biased.

I've love this quote and it's how I've always sovled problems. Sometimes time you solve the inverse problem, somtimes you start at the back and work the other direction, sometimes you work middle out.  I'm sure it's annoying to my coworkers when we start talking about a problem and I redefine it to be a different problem, but that's the way my brain works.

We are now going to invert our S&C program for the next 8-week cycle. It was: heavy barbell + high-rep kettlebell, now it will be heavy kettlebell + high-rep barbell.

For the last 18 months or so we've been on the push-pull-squat barbell cycle as the start of the workout. We'll still follow the same cycle, but it will be kettlebell presses, cleans, snatches, and squats.  June will be 8's, July will be 5's just like if it were the barbell. You don't have the resolution in weights with kettlebells that you do for barbells, so if you're between weights, go down a full step (or half-step, if I have the bell).  For each rep scheme, choose the heaviest weight that you'll never miss a rep. For presses, if your current bell is too light but you can't make the jump to the next bell then add a full set (4x8 or 6x5 insteand of 3x8 or 5x5, respectively). After a couple of weeks, you should be able to jump up.

What about warm-ups? Keep it quick. I suggest the following: 10 hand-to-hand swings at a light weight. A few pull-ups. 10 heavy swings. One set of the movement-of-the-day a bell or two light. Then hit the main workout. That's all I do. It gets the blood moving and it gets you primed for the big weight. You don't need much of a warm-up, it just sucks time and attention from the day.

After the kettlebell work, we move to the barbell. Just like the last cycle, we'll have "heavy", "medium", and "light" weights. I suggest the 60-70% range for "light", 75-85% for "medium", and 90%+ for "heavy".  But don't get tied to those weights, as always, judge your overall level of recovery and stress including (or especially) non-gym stress. It all counts! 

Every third day will be AGT - that's what makes you awesome, so don't skip those.

Michael Deskevich
Randy is taking a vacation

Randy is going to be taking a well deserved vacation next week. His first real vacation since we opened the gym. 

We'll have a limited schedule while he's gone. Sports performance hours will be cancelled and Blake will be coaching the evening and Saturday Weightlifting club hours.

Of course, everyone is also welcome to come to the evening S&C class. We'll make room for you. It's fun when it's crowded.

Michael Deskevich
Hey, what's this fancy website?
 photo credit:  Sarah helped out a lot with the new website, including working with Dave for all of the new photos. Thanks to both of them for making this new site look much better than the old one!

photo credit:

Sarah helped out a lot with the new website, including working with Dave for all of the new photos. Thanks to both of them for making this new site look much better than the old one!

Just in time for our 3-year anniversary we have a new fancy website! I'm old and cranky and like my way of doing things, but Sarah convinced me that I needed a better way to attract new folks to the gym, so I've given up my hold of having the blog on the front page. Don't worry, I'll keep doing my rants, just click on 'Articles' in the menu at the top. Everything - including the archives of the previous 900 posts - is here.

Since I have more control over this site than the old Google Blogger gave me, I'm able to do some cool things - like decouple the daily workout from the blog post. So when you look at any blog post, you'll always see the latest workout. You'll have to dig a little deeper to get the archives of workouts to see what we did in the past. If you need that, I bet you're smart enough to figure that out.

There may be a hiccup in RSS or the auto email every morning until I get all of the DNS changed over. But we should up and running 100% real soon.

If you're looking for an older post, they're in the 'Archives' section here.

Michael Deskevich
Hello World!

First Post (on the new website)!

In case you need it, all of the archives from the old website are here.

Michael Deskevich