A Strength and Conditioning Coach should not be limited to working with athletes, especially if he or she has the qualifications and experience to work with a different set of population. The human body, whether it belongs to an athlete or a non-athlete, follows the same physiology, has the same basic anatomical structures, and goes through the same natural processes. The ideas presented here are merely guidelines, not limiting factors, so that we can train better, and live better.

Gift to myself

Posted: April 26, 2018 in From my vantage point

This is for my future self to read. And also with anyone who cares to read. I hope it would inspire and re-inspire myself (or anyone). This year I turned 43. Not old, but not young. Last year I did two x 20kg x 42 reps KB jerks to mark my birthday. Then planned to have it this year. Time went fast & did not train as much as I think I shouldbut then my birthday came. I decided to use two x 24kg kb’s since the 20 kgs already felt quite manageable with proper pacing. It would not be so meaningful if it is not hard enough. So to give myself a challenge, I decided to use 24 kg instead.

I was not really sure if I could do it. I tried at lunchtime and failed at around 23 reps. I noted my mistakes: very tight belt which did not allow me to breath well and the other one may be a combination of pacing and resting in the racked position.

I tried again in the evening just before I went home. This time I used the belt correctly and paced better. I was doubting myself at around mid twenty reps. But let myself get to thirty. Then it felt like just a little bit more patience and perseverance and aim for mid 30. Got myself to 35 then it felt very well within reach now. Told myself to be patient and not rush. I paced myself not by looking at the time but by how I feel. I rest until I feel recovered for the next rep.

 

I plan to finish fast in the last 2-3 reps but I do not want to repeat an old mistake of going too fast in the last few reps that I failed on the last rep.

My previous mistakes should not go to waste especially it was this hard. So I breathed. Tried to breath well. Then adrenaline must have kicked in that I was confident I could go fast for the last three reps! And I did! I was ecstatic after the set that I was even able to fist pump. This I would not be able to do normally. I have to catch my breath for 30 seconds  or so but this time I was just so happy and relieved that I had the energy to clench and pump my fists.

This year went well. So now I plan to give myself a gift each year. It is not just attempting reps for my age. It is deeper than that. I plan to give myself a gift each year: a healthy mind and body. For as long as I can. It requires consistent and daily effort. Each year my body ages but I want it to age strongly.

I remember my grandfather. He had to use crutches in his 80’s since his spinal nerve roots have been compressed and he lost lower leg strength. But he still managed to keep himself busy and useful. He repairs the stone steps in my aunt’s farm. And that is not a flat terrain and the stones weigh around 15 kg and probably up to 30 kg. And when my grandfather was my age, he was so gentle and yet so strong. He can work the whole day doing what he does best. He makes rip raps. He can carry heavy loads up uneven steps high up to the top of his rip rap and this for the whole day for days at a time.

So I plan to be like him- a gentle man who is at peace with himself and who keeps his body healthy and strong. That would be a great git to myself; and to my family.

 

 

Kettlebell Snatch

Posted: December 5, 2017 in From my vantage point

The Kettlebell snatch is one of the two lifts in the biathlon event in Kettlebell Sport. If you are not in it for competition, it is still a very dynamic and useful lift. It is almost a ballistic lift except that you do not throw the kettlebell but you, well, snatch it. It is an overhead and fast lift. It depends on your training goal if you want to do a few repetitions- like 10 and below, or do more, like 20’s and beyond.

But before you do so many reps, it is better to polish your snatch technique. Many, or probably all lifters who are learning how to do the kettlebell snatch experienced some slight bruising on their forearm. That is because the bell slammed hard on the forearm. It can be avoided by a combination of proper hand insertion and for some, a slight dip. There is more than one technique to do the snatch. In the video, one type is shown, although it may be a slight combination of two techniques especially for the right arm.

It is a great exercise or developing strength-endurance. It involves most major joints and muscle groups, it improves the function of your “posterior chain” of muscles, and it can even help improve your cardio-respiratory endurance to a certain extent. Over all, it is a great exercise that gives you a great bang for your buck by improving a lot of fitness and even performance related fitness components.

Each lifter will have a technique which would be best suited or him or her. And again, like everything, you need to learn some fundamental skills and then practice, practice, practice so you can improve. Good luck!

 

Once in a while, after training for some time, you may feel like not training. It does happen. People may get bored, or may not be challenged.

It may be a sign that your training has been too monotonous in terms of the stimulus it provides you. Maybe you are not lifting heavy enough. Or maybe you are looking to spice things up a little bit, so you can re-focus and get back to training.

If you are training pressing movements and you feel you need a slightly different challenge, try doing the See saw Bottoms-up press. You need a pair of kettlebells that is not too heavy, nor too light. For a 65-70kg man of who has been lifting weights for a year or more, a pair of around 8 to 14kg kettlebells may work.

It is a given that you should know how to press. And another skill requirement is that you can clean 2 kettlebells at the same time. If you can do that try cleaning two kettlebells at the same time but instead of holding them at the usual kettlebell rack position, let their bottom point up- hence bottoms-up, and hold them almost in the rack position. If you cannot do that yet, then practice, practice, and practice. As always, better to start with a relatively lighter load first.

If you are finally able to simultaneously clean a pair of kettlebells in the bottoms-up position, then it is time to press both at the same time. Follow the bells with your eyes. It would help a lot. Practice, practice, practice…

If you are finally able to simultaneously overhead press a pair of kb while holding them bottoms-up, then you can press one at a time, on an alternating fashion. Then finally the alternating see-saw movement.

There you go. This exercise takes time to learn and execute if you are still improving on your strength department. It needs some strength, and of course skill. But if you are strong enough, you would be able to do it quite quickly. It is good to practice this once in a while to make training more interesting. Enjoy training!

Most resistance training equipment can be used outdoors. But some still require a solid and stable ground (like Olympic Barbells). Advantages of kettlebells over other resistance training equipement is that it requires very minimal maintenance cost. It can be used at the beach and would have minimal damage (a very thin rust) if not wiped clean after getting wet with sea water. You can practice juggling with it too. Here is a sample workout when you want to have fun at the beach.

 

Here is another routine which you can build upon. You can copy it as it is or modify the repetitions of each exercise. Three tips are given at the end of the video. Try it and don’t forget to comment!

Here is a quick warm-up routine for your kettlebell training. Some would want to add some more calisthenics and stretches which is great.

The nice thing about kettlebells is that they are very versatile. You can train your whole body almost anywhere. Sometimes I do it outdoors. It adds to the fun. Here is a routine which is quick but offers enough challenge. You can add reps per exercise or do more than one set. Enjoy! And don’t forget to leave your comments.

Late last year, I had the honor to support a runner from my beloved city. Sandi Menchi came all the way to Hong Kong from Baguio city, Philippines to participate in “The North Face 100- Hong Kong 2016”. She was endorsed by Sir Jonel Mendoza, our editor – in -chief at frontRunner.

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The finish line finally! (Photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

Just to make it clear, I am not a dietician nor a nutritionist. I am a Strength and Conditioning coach. So I may not be very technical in my approach to nutrition. But I try to be practical and to make things simpler. It would be useless to make a detailed and complicated chart that computes the minute nutritional and energy requirements of an activity if it cannot be implemented.

Our muscle tissues are our “engine”. We need glucose, stored as glycogen in our muscles and liver, for fuel when we run races. We need our body fat to keep us insulated, as well as a steady energy source for low level activities. Running 100 kilometres requires a lot of energy and fluid. Our muscles store energy in the form of glycogen which will be broken down to glucose when needed as fuel. Our liver and muscle cells are able to store glycogen but is only able to fuel around 20 to 30kms of running. After that, the body will have to rely on body fat for fuel- which takes a longer time to break down. It may even start to break down muscle tissues as energy source, which is not good.

So in order to keep you going, you have to take in food- and not just food, you need to take in carbohydrates. Here are some tips we used during the TNF 100:

1.Make sure you eat well 1-2 days before the event. Not only on the night before. Eat a lot of carbohydrates and food which does will not upset your digestive system. This is where the term carbo loading comes from. It is basically filling your muscles and liver with glycogen days before the actual race. Of course, drink a lot of fluids especially water. Refrain from alcoholic drinks though.

2.Prepare snacks pre-packed in single servings. Better to have with you one to two servings of food that you like. Even though there are aid stations where you can eat, or where you expect to meet your support crew, it is better to prepare for the worst. In Sandi’s case, we boiled camote where were then wrapped in bite sized portions. I made sure she has them the night before the race, not during the start of the race. Kamote, for those who eat it often, gives you that sustained energy, plus the “turbo” effect (for those who know what I mean!)

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A refill bag of kamote in the checkpoint just in case she needed them. One piece is just enough size for a quick snack and individually wrapped for convenience. (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

Kamote is what we handed Sandi to bring with her. Andre was her main support crew but I informed them that I will meet them at CP5 with warm siopao. Prior to the race, I learned she loves siopao so it is one of the foods that was prepared for her. There were also some chocolate bars, chips – to replace sodium lost through sweat; energy drinks; and some more siopao. Another kababayan, Sir Bong, also prepared a delicious meal for her and was also waiting for her at another CP at a later part of the race. For the support crew, it would help the runner a lot if you would also provide encouraging news and prepare all other things the runner may need in order to minimize time spent at checkpoints.

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She likes siopao so we also prepared some. It has carbohydrates, sodium, and amino acids- which helps in the feeling of satiety. Better to run not feeling hungry! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

 

3.Make sure you also have adequate sodium intake, but not too much. I also prepared chips- yes- the junk food. It has lots salt. If you are fine with it, it is also a way of ingesting sodium without overloading on it since you cannot eat that much bag of chips on the checkpoints. But it may be easy to overdose yourself with salt tablets or salt sticks. (In case you were wondering, Sandi did not eat the chips. She had the siopao instead).

4.Use energy gels which you like. During the race, do not try a brand which you are not familiar with. Some do not like the taste which makes it harder to swallow. Make sure you take gels, energy bars, rehydration salts and drinks which would not upset your stomach. If you estimate that you will be at the last stages of the race at night time, better prepare some gel with caffeine or arrange to have coke or coffee. It helps to keep you alert so hopefully you won’t miss trail marks.

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Andre really prepared very well! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

5.In relation to number 4, do not rely only on energy gels for fuel. That is why it is good to bring bite sized snacks to eat in between checkpoints (e.g. the Kamote). Bring some chocolates, bread, fruits which would not get squashed. And again, carbohydrates require a lot of water to digest so drink water as you eat to make sure you can absorb and metabolize your food on time.

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an apple a day! and oh, that is a nice looking sweatshirt! (photo courtesy of Amornphand Hanrpanichphand)

6.For those who have upset stomachs, prepare your medicine a few days before the race. You may take them the night before just to make sure your stomach doesn’t bother you. One or two tablets is not heavy so bringing some during the race might help.

7.Have a good meal after the race. It is good to have some protein with that meal to help in your recovery. Have a good rest after and keep drink a lot of fluids too. It is very basic but sometimes it is what we tend to neglect.

8.Finally, these tips will work best if you practice your eating plan during your training so you will discover how to make it work best for you. Some of these tips may not work for you but may work for others. So it is better to make mistakes during your practice runs so that you will not repeat them during the race.

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A job well done! (photo courtesy of Andre Blumberg)

 

Young past forty

Posted: February 26, 2017 in From my vantage point

Slowly, the world seems to be telling me I am older. Or that I should be older. In a few months time I will be a grandfather to my niece’s child. More like a great uncle. And I will be turning forty two years old this year. Forty went by but I did not notice it. And I still think I am thirty. Maybe I am in denial.

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An early morning hike makes things interesting.

Around 3 years ago, I visited an eye doctor since I felt my eyes are having a hard time adjusting after I use my office computer. After checking, he told me my eyes were fine and still 20/20 vision. That’s great to hear! But he said I may need glasses when I will be 40 or 41. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Back in the office I found out that the extra protective screen over the monitor was slightly off. This caused the slight distortion. I taped it firmly in place and my eyes were fine since then. And I know they will be for a longer time, so I haven’t visited the eye doctor since then.

It seems the world is getting older. This year I went back home for a short visit to the city where I grew up. Some friends commented that I still look fit, while they look at their round belly. I thought my belly is not that flat anymore so I hope their comments are sincere. The city also changed. It is not the same city anymore. It grew older. It now overflows with people and their houses and cars. It still has lots of pine trees, but not as much as before. Like a man who is slowly losing his hair.

Lately on facebook, I learned that a classmate when I was in elementary school had died due to cancer. And that one of my best friends has just recently had surgery for a benign growth in his head. Another one has a benign one on his spine. Are men designed to deteriorate by age 40?

I used to be the newest guy in the department where I work. But now am one of the “oldest” both in age and years of service. Last week, I had to be a guinea pig in the physiology lab for a dry run for the series of tests for the athletes I train. I thought it would be easy. But I ended up almost fainting. On the actual test, the athletes fared better than me since they did not feel dizzy. I almost accepted that I was getting older. But when I looked at the results, I felt a lot younger since I still beat them in peak power! Now I plan to beat them still on the post test. If I can still beat guys half my age maybe I am not growing older. Maybe the world is growing older but I choose not to.

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Spending some time away from the noisy city refreshes the mind.

Forty is just a number. It is a good reference point. It doesn’t make us older. It is we ourselves who will decide if we become old. I hope to grow but not to grow old. I choose to grow young. How? I try not to “work”, I want to “play”. That way, I feel less stressed. Join a competition once in awhile- just make sure your fitness level is able to support you. If not, then aim to make yourself fitter. I also do not buy much clothes. In fact, I still have clothes I wore a decade ago. Which means I have to maintain my waistline. Although I have to admit I noticed a round belly while looking at my photos 4 years ago. I trimmed it down a bit. Maybe by age 43 I will have my 6 packs again. Hmmn… yes, that will be a great idea.