Tuesday, October 30, 2007


I have a crush on Gary Taubes right now that's Shaun-Cassidy-sized. I'm writing his initials all over my notebooks with little hearts. Ok, I don't carry notebooks anymore but I doodle it in the memo of my checks. The electric company doesn't seem to care. Taubes had me at '. . . Fat Lie?' but now he's just romancing me with 'Good Calorie: Bad Calorie'. This article 'The Scientist and the Stairmaster,' ran recently in NY Magazine and Craig Cooper was kind enough to forward it. Here's an excerpt:

Just last month, the American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine published joint guidelines for physical activity and health. They suggested that 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days a week is necessary to “promote and maintain health.” What they didn’t say, though, was that more physical activity will lead us to lose weight. Indeed, the best they could say about the relationship between fat and exercise was this: “It is reasonable to assume that persons with relatively high daily energy expenditures would be less likely to gain weight over time, compared with those who have low energy expenditures. So far, data to support this hypothesis are not particularly compelling.” In other words, despite half a century of efforts to prove otherwise, scientists still can’t say that exercise will help keep off the pounds.

I urge you to read the article. It's not long before he'll get the whole 'Atkins' treatment by the media and it will be hard to read his stuff without someone yelling 'quack'. Most likely, that someone will be the AHA who will pray he succumbs to a heart attack. Why not? He seems to be giving the establishment one. No worries. It's unlikely he'll have a coronary given that he's not following any of their guidelines.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The "A' word

Instead of littering my Nissan Sentra with the standard pile of empty coffee cups and ponytail holders, I littered it with relationship residue. My jeep – May it be elevated to a KitchenAid Mixer in its next life – operated a lot like I do. It essentially worked but had a collection of ‘allergies’ and ‘sensitivities’. When I got rid of it and bought my Sentra, I was prepared for a whole new relationship and I tried not to make any assumptions about how the previous owner treated a car in which he wedged Captain Crunch between all the seats. Just because a man is willing to eat corn syrup – obviously with abandon given the splatter pattern – doesn’t mean he maintains his car as poorly as he does his person.

Not that there’s any parallel’s to be drawn between how long it takes me to extricate myself from bad relationships, I can at least tell you with no hesitation how far and how fast I can push a Dodge Colt out of an intersection when necessary. But I had hopes for the Sentra and we were happy together.

It all took a turn one sunny day. I had the radio on and I was singing along to a song that turned the story “we dated, now we don’t’ into something really complex while I was busy making the story, “the hazards were off, now their on,” akin to aeronautics. Even if I had been thinking clearly, the word ‘hazard’ itself implies there’s a problem and since, to my recollection I didn’t put the hazards on, and given my history with cars, I assumed something was broken. Well, I did what any reasonable girl would do. I whipped open the fuse box, brushed aside the Captain Crunch and pried the fuse out with the nail clipper I didn’t know I had but managed to forage along with enough of the cereal for sustenance. Wouldn’t any reasonable gal yank a fuse?

With the exception of a viscous attack to my palm by the business end of the nail clipper, I was satisfied with my solution. Well, until I discovered that my turn signals operate on the same fuse (there are friends who are shocked I noticed.) A couple of days later I caught a glimpse of a big red triangle on a button in the middle of my console just above and to the right of my coffee cup. It was like the pimple on the chin of my dashboard and it was the button for the hazards which, as it turned out, weren’t so much ‘broken’ as ‘on.’ Hey - not a mechanic! I sheepishly returned the fuse and to the sporadic use of my turn signal.

Keeping this story in mind, let’s quickly shift gears before anyone starts pondering the reasons why my relationships don’t work (besides, my girlfriends have assured me that men fear commitment and that has nothing to do with me.) Sometimes we act on assumptions that we didn’t even know we made and some of those decisions affect our progress in profound ways. It’s a dialog in our head, often as simple as ‘cars break’ that affects our actions and our outcomes.

I see it with clients all the time. “I’m Clumsy,” “I’m lazy”, “I’m weak” All of which may have been true for an instant or a decade. Some of it was just some silly noise some gym teacher made to explain away an off afternoon and it stuck. But as a result, every failure and every stumble has a ready reason long after the label is outgrown. In fact, the moment I give a client a new instruction or an old reminder, I can almost see the, “I can’t because. . . .” flash by. But if they could see themselves from this side of their eyeballs, they’d see someone who is capable but tripping over their reasons and not their feet.

Consider Client One’s answer when I asked him what, in his development as an athlete, are his obstacles. One said, “The question makes a big assumption, which may be at the root of the issue. I don’t think of myself as an athlete nor will I ever be one, regardless of how much I workout. Maybe that is the initial obstacle to overcome.”

It’s funny because it’s all based on how you define it. Video gamers are now insisting on being called athletes, but a man who spends three days a week with a trainer won’t even consider it. When I talked to another client about what she would do differently if she simply allowed herself that title, she understood that it would impact her nutrition, her sleep and her exercise just by looking at herself from that perspective. And we’re not talking about a shift in schedule, just attitude. Workouts would go from an afternoon play date with a caloric cost to an opportunity to develop skills and make progress.

“The second obstacle is intrinsic motivation,” One continued, “An athlete has a fire within themselves to push their body to achieve…when their minds says they can’t. They look at a weight on the bar, scrunch their face and say there is no way I cannot do that. An athlete sees a mountain to climb a non-athlete sees a really heavy bar and a sweat angel on the floor, even before they pick-up the bar.”

I disagree. I see ‘athletes’ struggle with the same doubts and fears as ‘non athletes.’ The only difference is that athletes have worked through those feelings enough times to know how to ignore them. In my case, I build in support systems to counteract my clumsy, lazy and weak moments. I still have them in my head, but with a whole network of people around me supporting my efforts, that feedback is the background noise of elevator music not a blaring frat party with a screeching punk vocalist yelling, “put the bar down!” so loudly I can’t hear my coach.

One also talked about the stop watch limiting him. He said, “When the stop watch is running, the focus in more on the time then the technique.” This is simply ‘panic.’ The entire first year of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu feels like Panic 101 and so I know the feeling. Experience will allow you to have the presence to focus on both speed and technique but unfortunately you have to believe that the two can coexist or recognize that something’s missing before you can develop it.

I talked to Client Two about what it would mean to be present since the time investment would be the same just the focus and point of view would change leading to greater progress. Two had a chance to think about it and said, “Your point is a great one about being more present and doing it well versus just doing it (where it is whatever cross fit training item we are working on). My default is just bear down and get through it. What’s ironic is that is my typical modus operandi whether in the gym, on the mat doing a martial art, here in the office or even dealing with interpersonal issues.” The reason we had the conversation so pointedly is that I understood how likely it was that he handled other areas of his life in similar ways.

The assumption One made next is interesting. He believes that the inability to visualize success is hardwired. One said, “The mind is typically wired to focus on failure or maybe it can more easily visualize failure then success.” I argue that what he’s identified is the fear associated with failure, which in our evolved world, is the closest we get to actual danger. That’s where the evolutionary hardwiring comes in. As Mark Rippetoe once said, in explaining the challenge presented by the snatch, “it is not instinctual to step under falling weight.” Well said. Identifying possible danger and working to avoid them is how we stay alive. In the absence of sharp-toothed and foul breathed pursuers, workouts are one of the few things we have left to make us wet ourselves.

People just aren’t comfortable with fear existing as a byproduct of successful survival. It always needs to be about something and usually that something is injury. After all, most of us have been injured and fearing injury seems so wise while fearing just to be fearful feels so wussy. Clients almost never say, “Wow, that scares me because I don’t think I can do that!” There’s always some mechanical limitation or some physical malady that no-kidding prevents it. Check out the answers to, what you fear:

Client Two: “Like you, my back has been a concern for me although in my case really only since around 2000. I threw it out and couldn’t walk for a couple of days and that really bothered me. I have thrown it out a few more times but never as badly since. I realize that it has a lot to do with flexibility (especially in my quads). There are certainly times when I am nervous that some movement will injure my back whether that is a twisting motion or lifting motion around my back. I know somewhere mentally that building my core would help protect my back, but I never seem to make extra time to work on that. When I am “good”, I exercise and the flexibility is way better. Doing various exercises with you sometimes helps and other times even when I am nervous about my back works out as long as I do the exercises correctly. I do have some fear about doing something badly/wrong – but you know that is probably more about being aware of what and how I am doing what I am doing. If anything, I believe that I don’t have an awareness of what my body is doing, but our conversation has me thinking that this really boils down to me not paying attention to what my body is doing because I am too busy thinking about something else…”

Client Three: “Internal voice – what I can tell myself I can / can’t do, what’s too heavy or too much, etc. This is often reinforced by the ‘Lack of Knowledge’ because one of the things that constantly gets in the way is something of the form ‘If I run another half mile, will I just be injuring myself’ or ‘if I try to lift another 10 pounds will I tweak something’ and if so, how long is it going to take for the minor injury to go away.”

Client Four: “Reinjury.”

Client Five: “If I was to worry it would be about pulling my back and making it stiff.”

Don’t get me wrong, the concerns are valid. But total systemic meltdown doesn’t necessarily come with a warning ‘twinge’ and even if that was step-one in the process, you’d probably only know it in hindsight. Often a twinge is just a twinge. Bodies are funny like that. In addition, you should know that I can’t read twinges like tea leaves and I can’t diagnose or give insight when what you’ve said all wide-eyed is, “I felt a twinge!” Twinge or no, if you routinely operate inside your workout from the perspective of ‘badknee’, ‘badback’, ‘badankle’ it can limit who you are as an athlete. Progress is measured by injury status and the push to accelerate is dictated by hard-to-read aches and pains which sometimes are just part of the process. It's a whole different workout when you come from the perspective that stellar form will keep you uninjured and you focus on that rather than tragic consequences.

When questioned further, One said he feared, “‘Phoning-it-in’ showing up and doing a workout and not giving 110%. Letting the last few reps be sloppy. Letting my mind psyche me out. I also fear disappointing my trainer. Seriously. I know you believe in me, which is super, super motivating. I don’t want to let you down. So, when my form slips or I scrunch my face because of the heavy weight...even before I pick it up, my mind is getting ahead of me. I look back on the workout later and say I could have done better.” Funny, the same things scared me but I changed it in my head from ‘what I fear’ to ‘what motivates me’. What’s the difference? Mainly the butterflies in my stomach that pop up before the workout are pleasantly fluttering rather than chewing angrily through my intestinal mucosa. Subtle but important.

Back to my driver’s seat: Every gadget I own has a manual stashed in the junk drawer with a trouble-shooting chapter that begins with ‘Step One: Check to see if it’s on’. I didn’t even need to look at the hazards as if I was a mechanic; the answer was stashed in a familiar place I never look. The same could be said if you want to know where to look to be an athlete. It’s the familiar place called childhood where competition was fun, learning took practice and sometimes you got hurt. We just didn’t attach a whole lot more to it than that.

And just so you know, after I returned the fuse, my right turn signal started blinking frantically as if my car is having a panic attack. But only on the right. I’m not going to call it ‘broken’. I like to think of it as a ‘sensitivity’ to right turns. The big squeaky noise that developed is a matter for the mechanic but in the meantime, I prefer to think of it as a small rodent with big vocal cords subletting my catalytic converter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hosting posts

Jennifer Adler of Realize Health was kind enough to let me reprint this article from her blog. I was so impressed with the way she handled questions during the talk and I was equally impressed by the concept that if she answered them, I wouldn't have to. I love you all dearly but I know that sometimes you ask questions mid-workout to distract me. From now on, you'll get Adler's business cards and you'll keep friggin' moving.

Alternative Medicine: Improve digestion with lively foods

You are not what you eat, but what you actually digest and absorb. If you are not eating healthy-bacteria or enzyme-rich (preferably organic) foods, your digestive system may not be at peak performance. Without adequate healthy bacteria and enzymes, food sensitivities, indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, belching, cramping or bad breath may occur.
Our body's natural production of enzymes decreases as we age, making enzymes we receive from foods such as raw honey, raw or cultured vegetables, raw or cultured milk and cheese, and raw fruits such as bananas, pineapple and papaya important for digestive health.

It is estimated that more than 400 species of bacteria inhabit our digestive tracts, weighing up to 3 1/2 pounds. There are both healthy and undesirable forms. It is important to have enough healthy bacteria to maintain optimal health. They help keep the intestines clean and free of parasites. They manufacture omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin K and the B vitamins. They can decrease cholesterol as well as intestinal inflammation and food allergies, and enhance liver function. Inadequate healthy bacteria has been linked with chronic disease.

In addition, healthy bacteria make up about 75 percent of our immune cells. This good bacteria is depleted by prescription antibiotics and consuming meat or dairy from animals fed antibiotics, consuming fluoride and chlorine in our water, as well as coffee and alcohol. It is important to replenish this good bacteria on a daily basis.

Eating cultured and fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, kombucha, miso and cultured vegetables from the refrigerator section can help replenish necessary healthy bacteria.

-- Cynthia Lair and Jennifer Adler, adjunct faculty for the School of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University

Sunday, October 14, 2007


My flight is delayed. Not really but it’s a stall as I cooling my jets in a departure terminal where all I can do is make up interesting lies about the people around me and justify the consumption of comfort food just for something to do. It takes a very dedicated chunk of time and the memorization of multiple formulae in the mastery of calorie calculus just to convince myself that frozen yogurt counts as a protein or that Nachos can somehow meet 40/30/30 requirements. But it becomes so much easier to sit around and I become so much more compliant when I’ve been numbed by carbohydrates and boredom. That’s me in the gym right now – bags packed with 90K, waiting for progress and trying not to put the kind of non-nutrients in my mouth that will just make the job of pushing weight even harder.

I’m trying not to know – if ‘knowing’ makes it so – that the Monday Night Squat progression is going to be a battle as I revisit 90K over and over again. I’ll either push like hell to keep the weight moving up or it will push like hell to keep me stuffed in a compact little bundle buckled beneath the weight. It takes an excruciatingly long time to decide whether or not I’ll bail. At this point, I’m the Susan Lucci of squat night and I smile at each failure like I’m just happy to be nominated.

Nothing personal, I’m sure. 90K and I greet each other politely and I try to pretend we’re working together. I saunter up to it in a friendly enough way and make like we’re pals. I even drape my arms over the bar sometimes and lean casually as if we’re that comfortable with each other. But secretly I think it mocks me and talks behind my back. I want to get passed it. I want to be able to talk about it in breezy tones as if I barely remember our meeting. But somehow 90K knows that I’m only three beers away from drunk-dialing it and simpering about why it doesn’t like me.

I ask myself a lot of questions in the postmortem about what I ate, how I slept, how I trained. These are the kinds of variables that affect me on any given day. At first the notations in my training log were sensical and almost sciency. “DOMS from Friday” but after awhile the shaky and frantic script became a muddled mix of paranoia and superstition like, “the rack was moved into a hell mouth,” “Saturn’s rising and it unbalanced my aura.”

I’m not sure people want to work at my rack anymore and it’s not just for fear of falling objects. I think they fear I’m a contagion of calamity. I’m funking the bar with a heavy residue of a glute deteriorating bacteria or I’m plagued by the ghosts of failed lifts past. Either way, I’m messing with Chi especially my own. And it’s like tripping in public or whatever other graceless act you care to commit, you figure if you jump up immediately it somehow diminishes the memory in other people’s minds so that, if you’re fast enough, it’s like you never did it at all. Um, sure.

About a month ago, it was time to do the CrossFit total. I initially approached it with the same zeal and enthusiasm I’d muster for root canal. With my rotator cuff injury, the only positive thing I can say about the Overhead Press is, at least my arms are short. That makes the process of pushing things to lockout painful but not prolonged. My body generally rejects the effort at about the point when the bar reaches my eyeballs and my brain decides to detour around the supraspinatus by taking some indirect and unsuccessful path around the bar. It’s ugly and relatively harmless. The Deadlift is something I haven’t been dying to do since the strongman competition when I didn’t feel as if I was lifting weight as much as birthing it. And the squat, well, you know about the squat.

I considered the ever appetizing no-show served, to anybody who asked, in a big steaming ragu of reasons and excuses and seasoned with drama. My inner Diva was cooking up a heart wrenching tale of rotator cuff betrayal and the unrequited love of 90K; complete with big dance numbers all bollywood style. But then, unlike the average diva, I considered the other people in the room. First, there was the poor bloke who walked in with a simple question of “are you doing the total?” and ended up with the time-suck of bullshit. Yeah, that shoulda been a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ moment. And, second, all the other women who are looking for a template of what to do when it starts to get hard. ‘Quit, cry on a shoulder, and have excuses ready’ isn’t what they deserve for an answer.

If I’m not remembered for getting passed 90k on the protocol, I’ll be remembered for never letting it drop me. There’s a lesson in this and I’m not going to let that lesson be about how to quit. If other women show up and see me struggle maybe they’ll understand that struggle is part of it too. Or maybe they’ll get that this is about work and not about genetic blessings. Whatever they get, it’s more valuable than anything they’d get from me not showing up.

In the end, I met my goal of 561 pounds. The Squat was a PR, the Overhead Press was disappointing but respectable and the Deadlift, though not a PR, was significantly heavier than my last combined effort. In total, it’s what I set out to do though with a different breakdown than I imagined. It hasn’t stopped the 90K from hitting the floor though. What will keep the weight on my back is this: limit my metabolic conditioning, eat to support what I’m doing which will likely mean a push to gain weight and manage my sleep to ensure at least eight hours. It means becoming a sport-specific athlete.

These aren’t all sacrifices I’m willing to make so in the meantime I’m listening to my coach and doing what I’m told. After all, the point of having a coach isn't to ignore the expertise, do what I want anyway and keep the guy around just to fight with. The carnival ride in my cranium is usually a dizzying tilt-o-whirl of nonsense. In twelve hour bouts that turns out to be fun for only a little while. While I’m busy trying not to throw up on the ride, let him operate that part of my life for awhile. In order to get passed the things I’ve failed at, I’m going to need better inputs then the ones I’ve already used to fail with.

And that brings me to the other lesson I learn as I hang out in this holding pattern: If it’s true that the universe line-drives you with the same crap you’re belting out, then perhaps, as a coach, I should consider how coachable I’m being. Otherwise, my schedule could soon be filled with ornery foot-stompers with questionable fortitude. Hmmm, I’d rather give that 90K another go.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Doc's Dialogue

Step 1: get all the best people in the same room. Check.

For those of you who attended the talk on Sunday, many thanks. You're questions fueled the conversation and gave us all things to ponder. The next step will be the individual interviews and then the final product. In the meantime, the contact information for each of the panelists is available below:

Neurology / Sleep Medicine

Dr. Randip Singh
Board certified in Neurology and is board eligible in Sleep Disorders Medicine

1100 112th Ave NE, Ste 320
Bellevue, WA 98004
(425) 289-3000
Clinic Hours: 8am - 5pm, Monday - Friday
Telephone Hours: 9am - 5pm, Monday - Friday

sleep studies scheduled by appointment only Sunday through Friday


Christina Demopulos MD

7525 SE 24th St
Mercer Island, WA 98040
(206) 230-0330

(I don't have a lot of information to reference on Dr. Demopulos in part because she's new to the area but I urge you to Google her work. She's done some impressive research especially in the area of Bipolar disorder).


Jennifer Adler M.S.,C.N.
Certified Nutritionist, Natural Foods Chef & Adjunct Faculty at Bastyr University
911 Western Ave Ste 305
Seattle, WA 98104
phone: 206-595-0376

See Jennifer Adler again at PCC in Redmond on October 30th, from 6:30 to 9:30p for a hands-on class "Take Time to Speed up Metabolism." As Adler says on her webside, "Take advantage of the coming darker, colder months to slow down while boosting your metabolism. Join us for this exciting, thought-provoking class where we’ll explore the importance of what you eat and how you eat to enhance pleasure and energy while promoting weight loss. In this class, we’ll make some favorite comfort foods, such as Homemade Macaroni and Cheese, Savory Lamb Stew, Slow-cooked Collard Greens and Spicy Hot Chocolate, that will nourish your body and warm your soul. With meat and dairy; no eggs. " I wasn't able to find the event on PCC's calendar, but it may not have been posted yet. Check PCC again, or call Adler for more information.

Alternative Medicine

Dr. Ladd Carlston D.C.
Doctor of Chiropractic

Total Body Wellness
22525 SE 64th Place
Issaquah, Washington 98027

Tel: (425) 557-5975

(Check Dr. Carlston's website for seminar information)