Life Altering Wisdom (“If something is important, do it every day”) – Part 3

Find Part 1 and Part 2 of this 27 part series by clicking the one you’ve not indulged in yet.

In continuing with the 25 part list found in Part 1 I chose to ask a few people close to me which topic was of most interest. To my interest these people chose #20: Taking Risks. I hope you’ll come to see by the end of this little scribble that if you’re enticed by the idea of taking risks in your life, then quite simply: you’re not taking enough of them to equate to the happiness life can bring you.

I could end this rant there but let me continue…

We’ve all taken risks in our lives. Hell, every decision or change of direction in life is a risk. I take risks every day, some much larger than others. I choose to write every day. Sometimes in the personal scribble or poems that become a marker of my life. I don’t share them (I don’t hide them either; I’m just never asked) but the point is that taking a thought from inside of your head or heart and putting it to paper is a risk. It becomes much more real. We all know people who refuse to share their feelings and thoughts and guess what, we usually pity them for their fear. I choose whom I’m going to spend my time with each day; that’s a risk as I’m literally trading my life’s time to be spent on you. I’m in a committed relationship which I invest a great deal into. I don’t own that person so therefore without any just cause or injustice on my part she could decide one day that I’m not her cup of tea anymore and up and leave. That’s a risk I’m happy to take. I choose to exercise in a manner that could cause me serious injury one day. But I like intense, purposeful exercise. It’s a risk I accept. See the theme here?

Take a moment: what risks are you taking right now? Do you take them on willingly or perhaps out of habit? Do you evaluate which risks are worth the life you’re trying to live?

Things that make you go hmmmmmm…

5 years ago I made the decision that the corporate business (in this case, insurance) world was simply not for me. But what would I do? Would I go back to school? Would I use my office based skill sets for something else? Would I finally hear my friends and co-workers telling me to go do what I was most passionate about: fitness and teaching it to others? I had the kushiest job. Seriously. I was 25, making $40K a year in a union based company where no one ever lost their job and the top available salaries were upwards of $70K/year. I was working in downtown Vancouver, on the 18th floor of the Harbour Centre with a desk that literally was in front of a giant window that overlooked all of North Vancouver, Canada Place, the seabus, heliport, cruise ship dock and gorgeous mountains. My boss was a good woman. My co-workers were good to me. There was a home for me if I wanted it. But I chose to throw caution to the wind  and up and quit my job. I was gonna do this personal trainer thing. Let me tell you, I was in for a shock. The hours are horrid (needing to be at work at 5:30am and sometimes back at work until 11pm), the pay was shit (about $20 for an hour’s work; keep in mind that it takes at least an additional hour of other work to perform that one session), the environment was overly salesy which I hate; oh and my first year I took a pay cut from that $40k/year salary to a T4 that told me I made a whopping $17K the following full year in personal training. What the hell was I thinking? I could go on, but the point is the change, the risk, the difficulties that come with owning one’s own business and being a one-man show are not as easy as I make it seem. But I LOVE what I do every day. I LOVE my life. I LOVE who I am and how I’m trusted and able to help others reach their personal goals. It’s an honor.

I had a client a few years back now and I remember distinctly a conversation that went like this. You would be wise to pay attention:

She was working full-time and to complete her degree and further her career she was facing the decision of quitting her full-time job, losing all her income (with very little savings) and going to school full-time versus the part-time she was currently doing. That’s a tough decision as is. To add to it she was about 100lbs overweight. I’d been training her for quite some time, on and off and she roller-coastered from losing 25lbs to gaining it back and more, to losing it and then gaining back even more. It was a nasty cycle. So while she was deciding whether quitting her job was the right choice or whether she should focus on her health, lose the weight and save more money by working for the next year, I had a strong feeling this was one of those life-altering forks in the road. I told her, in my opinion, that once she was in school, with no income that she would then become uber stressed, become unable to pay for personal training which she needed as she could not motivate herself to workout regularly and most likely she would remain the unhealthy weight she was for a much longer time if she chose the career first. It’s not my life, I just foresaw what was going to happen. I’ve not spoken with her in a while but I’m going to assume that her weight and health have not changed markedly for the positive and it leaves me with the question of what if she’d risked taking one year out of her career life to focus on something that would define a great deal more in her life.

Another story: I have a good buddy. I’ve known him for about 3 years. One thing that stuck with me about him was a conversation him and I first had about how he desired to own his own business one day. He wasn’t sure what, but he just knew he wanted to be his own boss and be successful in that way. Now I’ve watched him make some grand personal discoveries and change as all young men inevitably do between 25 and 35, but lately I see something more: an uneasiness; an unhappiness that’s deep seeded in the lack of risks he takes to reach his goals. He’s no closer today than he was 3 years ago to that original goal. He’s been spinning his wheels for far too long. I do my best to converse with him and be honest and frank about the subject but we each change in our own time. The point is, his meandering back and forth, being indecisive about which risk to take has led to a complete lack of action, anxiety, unhappiness, a boredom with life all in a dude who’s a great character; you know, the type that’s interesting, decent and you just wanna see happy.

So let me ask you this:

How many years will you waste by not risking it all? 

More importantly do you see risk as opportunity for success and joy? Do you have more regrets in life than you do points of pride?

Will you find the risk presented in every day and discover the way it could mold your life into every dream you ever saw for yourself?

Funny, ‘cuz we’ve all heard the story of Humpty Dumpty; will anyone hear your life story?

Advertisements

Life Altering Wisdom (“If something is important, do it every day”) – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series of blogs, I bestowed upon you a great wisdom I’d run across and how I shall seek to apply it to various parts of my life. While I shall be covering that 25 part list in no particular order, I will be starting with the first I wrote of:

DRINK LOTS OF WATER

Funny story: about 4 years ago I got myself into the habit of drinking a 4L jug of water while at work. My goal was to get it polished off by the time I left the gym. That’s a LOT of water. And because my job doesn’t allow me to perform its duties from the urinal I found that adding a single serving packet of Crystal Light to the jug would slow that process down. The White Tea Peach Ginger flavor, which was my favorite, left my jug looking mighty yellow. And don’t go getting all crazy on me about a small packet of Crystal Light (which is instructed to dissolve in 500mL of water and I’m diluting in 8X that amount!). In the course of a year, after telling enough gym members when they’d ask what I was drinking “oh, I like to recycle my vitamins; make sure I’m not wasting my money” the jug became infamously known as my jug of pee. No one went near it.

I quickly learned something in that endeavor to drink that much water: my energy stayed MUCH higher than on days I’d only get the required 8 x 8oz (2L total) fluid intake usually recommended. In fact, on days I’d forget my jug at home, the day would drag on and I’d be burned out by the end of it.

On average, these days, I get somewhere between 6-8L of total fluid in me a day. Not because I’m a water hog, but rather I just find myself wanting that much liquid. I’ve become accustom to drinking that much. What does that look like:

Wake: tall glass of tap water ~300mL

During early half of my day: 2.3L jug of tap water with one serving of Q Energy dissolved into it (see what I’m talking about here)

Workout: 2.3L jug filled with tap water and I mix in my pre-intra workout mix of Surge Workout Fuel (over-glorified Gatorade), glutamine, creatine, whey protein hydrosolate, and a pre-workout stimulant formula.

Post-Workout: Protein shake in 750mL of water

Later half of my work day: 2.3L jug of tap water with one serving of Q Energy dissolved into it (see what I’m talking about here)

When I get home: usually 1-2 x 300mL glasses of water and 1-2 x 250mL cups of tea (I’m a chamomile junkie)

Middle of the night: I always wake in the middle of the night, and usually put down a 200-250mL glass of water.

So on a high day such as above I’m taking is about 8L of total fluid.

On Sundays and Mondays (my less busy work days) I usually chill out and don’t use my big 2.3L jugs. I just reach for water whenever I’m thirsty. I may only get 3-4L on those days.

Isn’t That Too Much? Are You Not In The Bathroom ALL Day?

I’m not advocating everyone should rush out and begin downing 2 gallons of water every day to reach some sort of enlightenment. But I am asking that you evaluate how much you are drinking and if you’re drinking enough.

You have to understand I move in the form of low-level exercise for upwards of 16 hours a day. On average I climb a 15 step staircase 30 times a day! Then I have a hard workout near every day and I sweat like a beast. And I’ve built myself up over the past 5 years to drinking the amount of fluid I do.

So don’t do like I do unless you’ve done as I’ve done.

Plus, I have caffeine each day. I supplement with creatine monohydrate. I have a protein rich diet. These are all factors which cause increased need for hydration in the body.

Do I spend a lot of time in the bathroom? Yep, sure do.

Guidelines

I will say that if every person would simply meet the 2L total fluid intake per day you’d probably be making a huge positive step in your life. If you’re very active or perform rigorous workouts, you need some more. If you drink things that dehydrate you (like caffeine containing beverages such as coffee) you should be offsetting that as well.

Some info for you:

  • Drinking cold water causes a sharp, but short-lived increase of your metabolism and caloric expenditure due to the process of heating the water to your body temperature. How much? 500mL cold water equated to about 25 extra calories burned. Nothing major, but over time those 100 calories a day will add up.
  • A mild amount of dehydration (such as one seen when you feel thirsty) can equate to a 3% drop in metabolic rate. As the saying goes: if you’re thirsty, it’s probably already too late, you’re slightly dehydrated.
  • Go read this: http://www.livestrong.com/article/30240-drinking-water-increase-metabolism/ Your liver is begging for help!

Want more info try Google: metabolism + water, dehydration + metabolism, water + weight loss or any other combo you can think of.

Suggestions

The only trick I know that works to truly get someone to drink more fluid is to have that person have a water bottle in front of them AT ALL TIMES. If it’s sitting in front you, you’ll drink it. And I’m not talking a 500mL bottle of Aquafina which is destroying the environment and may possibly be toxic (watch these documentaries to see why Nestle is evil and Aquafina and Dasani are CRAP!: Blue Gold: World Water Wars; Tapped; Flow: For the Love of Water).

Go buy yourself a quality water bottle. Ideally it would be glass. A good idea is stainless steel. I opt for plastic but that’s my choice, just ensure you NEVER drink hot fluids from plastic bottles and make sure they do not have the incredibly frightening chemical BPA in them.

If you’re scared of tap water then invest in a good filtration system such as this:http://www.aquasana.com/product_detail.php?product_id=20 or look up a local service called Wa-2 here: http://www.wa2.ca/

And FYI about 90% of the chlorine your body intakes from water is NOT from drinking tap water, it’s from showering in it!! Maybe you should invest in this instead: http://www.aquasana.com/product_detail.php?product_id=46

Purchasing bottled water is for losers! Yep, I said it.

Closing

If you’re not getting your 8 x 8oz a day (2L total), get on that. Evaluate if you need more. Increase water intake slowly over the course of many weeks so you’re not simply ending up in the washroom a dozen times extra. If you don’t eat any processed foods, consider adding sea salt to your foods when cooking – most health nuts don’t get enough sodium and drinking a ton of water only further complicates the problem (a good sign is if you take in extra salt for 3 days and notice an increase in energy, it means you fall into this category). Go easy on the dehydrants: caffeine containing beverages. And drink tap water. Bottled water is destroying the environment (Google: Plastic Ocean Soup or watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrAShtolieg&feature=related) and you have no idea what you’re drinking (watch the documentaries mentioned above). Paranoid? Get a quality filteration system installed at home and pack water with you in that big jug every where you go.

Rant over. Where’s my chamomile tea?

Life Altering Wisdom – Part 1

I may have just stumbled across what will become the motto of my life…

I’ve just begun the journey of watching one of coach Dan John’s seminar DVD’s. I say begun because I got about 20 minutes into the above DVD and ran across a phrase that hit me like a sledgehammer. The rest of the night was a mind-flurry blur that kept me up till 3am.

“IF SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT, DO IT EVERY DAY”

What’s somewhat disturbing is that I’ve read a good dozen of Dan’s articles on T-Nation and other places and I’ve even run across this way of thinking before. Why it stuck last night, I have no idea.

Maybe, like many things in life, it’s not about what we learn…but rather when we learn it.

I’m just primed to receive the wisdom right now.

In the seminar DVD he makes a statement about fish oil, “it’s important; how often are we supposed to take it?” he asked the crowd. “Every day,” was the response. Dan makes the correlation between knowing we are to drink lots of water, get sleep and do no-brainer stuff every day but that we forget to apply it to the fitness side of things. I took it further and applied it as a motto to EVERY single aspect of my life. So here’s a list, one I shall tackle one subject at a time; one for every day; in completely random order.

IF SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT, DO IT EVERY DAY

The following list is compromised of aspects of my life I feel fall naturally into the above wisdom. Some are universal to everyone, some not so much. Perhaps you’ll learn a thing or two along the way.

1. Drink lots of water

2. Cook/prepare food

3. Read for enjoyment

4. Read for education

5. Sleep/sleep quality

6. Hygiene/appearance/body maintenance

7. Exercise

8. Business

9. To-do lists

10. Goal visualization

11. Introversion/introspection

12. Writing

13. Vitamins/dietary supplements

14. Family/friends

15. Give

16. Receive

17. “Don’t forget the girl”

18. Self myofascial release (coming this week is the motherload of SMR information; part 2 to https://adriancrowe.wordpress.com/2011/11/19/smr-part1-productsreview/)

19. Goodnights/giving thanks

20. Taking risks

21. Keep tabs on your role models

22. Outperform yourself

23. Flush the toilet

24. Listen, really listen

25. Buy your intentions

So there you have it. For the next 25 days you’re going to get a blog a day (or more as I have other subjects I intended to cover anyway).

If it hits you too:

Let it sink in:

“If something is important, do it every day.”

Self Myofascial Release (SMR) Part 1 – Complete Market Product Review

The following is a complete review of near everything on the market as of the date of this post. See Part 2 for a very comprehensive explaination of how to properly perform self myofascial release which includes in-depth videos.

The first time I saw self myofascial release being done was about 4 years ago and it went a little like this:

Athletic looking dude who I knew was strong as an ox as I’d seen him training in the gym I worked at for a while, was on the floor at 6am with his basketball getting mighty “fresh” with it. I mean he was face down, legs and arms sprawled way out like Spiderman, grinding his inner thigh and groin area away with a basketball and making some rather disturbing moaning, groaning and grunting noises. I can only imagine the look of shock on my face.

WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS FREAK DOING?

But this same freak could do chin ups with three 45lbs plates hanging off him. Hell, his girlfriend would do chin ups while wearing a backpack that she would shove a 25lb plate into!! These weren’t muscle monsters, this was a couple who were healthy, normal and athletic looking.

Was I missing something?

The short answer was yes! Although I had no idea at the time just how important it would become and how it would shape the way I approach injuries, injury prevention, and everything else to do with performance and recovery in my job.

It’s become one of those things I just do now. I make everyone do it at the start of their workout. I brush my teeth. I drink lots of water. I do self myofascial release (herein referred to as SMR). It’s just how I roll.

Being that this is a two part article I’m going to start with the fun stuff first: product reviews. In the second part I will discuss further why you should be doing SMR as well as show you on video how to do it. I’ve already shown a practical application here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwnNG9R1tlM here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CETuuwaPNU and here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gAYUzKrqiYw

Product Reviews

I will preface this by saying that I think all myofascial release tools can work well if you know what you’re doing. However, some are better than others. Some are better at specific tasks than others. I will cover every major player in the current fitness equipment market below. First we begin with the various “rollers” out there:

Generation 1: The Original – Foam Rollers

Foam rollers are made of, you guessed it: foam. Generally speaking different color rollers mean different densities (hardness) and various types of foam are used. EVA foam is the best. As for density it usually increases like this (white being the softest): white, red, blue and finally black (being firmest). They generally come in 18” or 36” lengths and can come cut in half for various other uses. A 36” blue foam roller is where I started and I think most should. They run about $20-$30.

Pros: Cheap. Easy and effective to start learning SMR techniques on (especially the 36” length as the movements can be clumsy at first) and it’s generally not too aggressive for the general population. If it gets banged up, who cares, it was cheap. When you’ve gotten your use out of it, then upgrade to a Generation 3 roller (reviews further down page).

Cons: Size (try packing a 36” roller to the gym or on vacation). Longevity of these rollers is very low (The more dense they are {meaning black is best; white is worst} the longer they will last. EVA foam also last longer than most other closed cell foams) so it will require frequent replacement. Personally, for myself and my small business I burned through a dozen or more rollers before I wised up. Hygiene: bacteria can collect on these easily, especially as they breakdown. I would spray cleaner on mine all the time, but still I would never go near one in any other gym that was meant for use by all members. Gross.

Generation 2: Enter the PVC Pipe

People who were foam rolling often (including myself) were finding the foam roller, regardless of density, stopped doing the trick. We needed something firmer, more aggressive to get into those trigger points. Some people resorted to using cheap PVC pipe:

Or worse: rolling pins (yes, the ones used for baking)

But along came a viable product that offered a hardness us SMR junkies were looking for:

The Travel Roller

Basically, it’s just a plastic pipe (as I’ve show by pulling back the sleeves a little) covered by a thin pad and then a soft foam “skin.” This double covering of the plastic pipe makes a substantial difference offering just the right amount of firmness but making it friendly enough to use daily. The product also comes with a DVD (and poster) which has some excellent information on it and shows how to get the most out of the product. If you’re going to buy a “fancy” roller I sure as hell hope it would come with instructional materials to explain how to properly use it. I’d go so far to say that if you were going to purchase only one of the generation 2 or 3 rollers, this would be the best system to use (between the roller and the acupressure balls) especially when you take the DVD’s instructions to heart.

Pros: It’s far more hygienic than typical foam rollers as the sleeve can be taken off and washed. It will last a long time even with frequent personal or clinical usage. It’s hard enough to really dig at those trigger points but skin friendly enough to not feel too torturous. It contains no PVC, no latex, nor any rubber. As for the acupressure balls, I first thought that I could meet the same needs with other balls much cheaper to purchase (as their site asks $30 for a set) however, upon using these balls instead of my hockey, tennis and lacrosse balls I quickly realized the quality of the balls. They’re built to last a very long time even with heavy usage. Another serious perk is that the product is designed (via drawstring closure as show in above picture) to store the balls between sessions AND I can also fit my dual tennis balls (shown later in article) which makes this the perfect tool to pack to the gym! 

Cons: Cost ~$50-80. I hate to say the cost is a con as it’s more than worth the money but it’s not as cheap as generation 1 foam rollers are. I wouldn’t purchase the acupressure balls on their own, even if I wanted another set, I would rather purchase a 2nd Travel Roller complete kit as they come with the balls. The only con I see, which I’ve brought up with the owner of the company for future production considerations, is that the acupressure balls could use some more tack. When I’m using the balls in my post-workout SMR and I’m sweaty they can slip around a bit. But that’s just being nit-picky.

The Trigger Point Company’s Ultimate 6 System

When I first saw this product I quickly realized two things: 1) the design was very intentional and 2) it was damned pricey. This product is heavily marketed to the running and triathlete world and with good sense as it may just be the best product out there for those involved in those sports (running, swimming, biking). This product offers some unique rollers such as the Quadballer which is a firm pipe with two large rollerblade-type wheels and a cloth covering. It works very effectively for the quads, IT band, hamstrings, and adductors. The Footballer is a smaller version of Quadballer and it used for the feet and calves. Lastly they produced what is called the TP Massage Ball which is essentially a lacrosse ball which is covered in a cloth material.

Pros: Effectiveness: this product is incredibly effective when used as the DVD prescribes and their website offers a great deal of videos and information on how to use the product properly. Again, for runners or triathletes, this may be the best product on the market for you when you follow “the Ultimate 6 system.” The products are very well made (except for two problems I’ll list below) and will last a long time for personal use.

Cons: Cost. The Ultimate 6 system will run you anywhere from $150-200! In my opinion, buying the separate components of this product (which you can do somewhat) for cheaper, is useless. If you’re going to use this system, get  the whole thing or check my other options later in this article. From a hygiene standpoint all the products are covered in a cloth material which cannot be removed and washed. This makes it the wrong choice for clinical or multi-person use (save for couples who swap germs all the time anyway). Also, the Trigger Point (TP) Massage Ball is stupid. Where they had to sew the cloth together over this hard ball makes the product lumpy and uncomfortable. Other balls work better. Lastly, if you are a larger person, this product may not work either. If you have giant quads you’ll find the Quadballer product too small and may pinch the skin or hair with the wheels.

Generation 3 – Enter the Bumps & Grooves

We all know massage therapy is great. It’s great because you get to relax (or try to in the case of deep tissue massage) while someone DIGS at your muscles and trigger points. And that’s what was missing in the self myofascial release equation the whole time: accuracy. See all generation 1 & 2 rollers shown above are blunt instruments, they’re flat, and have no contours to deal with the different types of tissue you have in your body such as muscle, tendon, and bone. And it’s here that two major players stepped up.

The Grid (by the Trigger Point Company)

The Grid played on the Travel Roller’s intention of being firmer and longer lasting (plastic pipe covered in foam) but added bumps and grooves meant to mimic the palm, finger and fingertip/thumb precision found in massage therapy. When you learn to use the various surfaces of The Grid you get an exceptional SMR experience and effective results from the roller. It’s the first one I teach others how to foam roll on. I’ll keep clients on this roller until they are ready for the Travel Roller. That’s why I bought two (for tandem or group sessions).

Pros: On top of what’s mentioned above this product is very well made. The foam is EVA which has for the past 8 months on my first purchase (my black roller) been used 2-10x a day! Compared to my 2nd purchase (the orange roller) there is maybe at most been a 15% degrade in firmness over those 8 months. Trust me you wouldn’t notice unless I pointed it out. Cost: this product’s cost, which is about $55 I will put in the pro category as the value is incredible. As mentioned I had previously spent around $250 in regular foam rollers in the same time frame as these ones have lasted me. Hygiene wise, they don’t absorb bacteria though they can harbor it on top which is why I regularly clean mine.

Cons: The Grid’s “digging” ability is on the lacking side comparative to the Travel Roller (above) and to the Rumble Roller (below). Once you’ve used the Travel Roller you quickly realize The Grid is a little on the soft side as well as the diameter can be a little large for some jobs but better for others like the inner thigh and stretches like thoracic extension:

The Rumble Roller


I just call this thing the Tenderizer now. When I first saw it I was quickly reminded of two things:

A meat tenderizer &

My collectible Hellraiser movie statue replica

Neither of which I would ever use for self-massage, both torturous (you’d have to see the movie to understand), yet here I am in ownership of a Rumble Roller. In a one sentence quote: No doubt about it, for self myofascial release connoisseurs, the Rumble Roller is the best product on the market!

Like The Grid, the raised bumps do an excellent job digging at trigger points. As it looks, the Rumble Roller is far more aggressive than The Grid and for those daring they offer a black version which is even denser. In my opinion the blue version is challenging enough. The point of SMR is to be able to relax the muscle when you put these tools on a trigger point. The Rumble Roller is FAR too aggressive for those just starting out on the SMR journey. And I will say most would do very well stopping at The Grid. But when you want more precision, pressure and release, the Rumble Roller is the answer. I love this thing!

Pros: It’s aggressive nature. You can target, dig, work at and lessen trigger points extremely well with this product. It will last forever. It has a build in anti-microbial agent built into the foam so it stays hygienic (even though I still clean mine). And on places of the body like the upper back, it actually feels really good! As mentioned it does come in different sizes and densities:

Cons: Cost. At about the same price as The Grid which is $55 for the smaller version (they make a 36” version which is ~$80) I think most people other than us SMR connoisseurs won’t be able to handle the bumps all the time. I sometimes can’t when I’m dealing with post workout muscle soreness. I have to downgrade to The Grid or Travel Roller when a trigger point hurts too much. So it’s a lack of versatility we’re talking about. In a clinical setting, the rumble roller again is not the place where people start so you’re forced to buy an “easier” version of a roller for newbies.

The following Product Reviews fall outside the foam rolling category and are more specific-use self myofascial release tools:

The Stick (yep, that’s as imaginative as they could come up with for a product name)

The Stick comes in various sizes. Other companies make similar products (such as the Tiger Tail) but this one is the best in its category. This product is great for really targeting muscles in the legs in a way you don’t have to be all over the ground (like you do with a roller) and anyone who’s tried rolling their calves on a foam roller knows it’s more of an arm and abdominal workout than we signed up for. The stick has its place in the toolbox.

Pros: The stick does wonders on the hamstrings (which are an area that foam rollers aren’t great at), the calves and the quads. The design at first had me worried. Thoughts of the spaces between the white cylinders tearing my leg hair out or pinching the skin crossed my mind. But that doesn’t happen. It’s very user-friendly. They come in various lengths for things like rolling pre-run or travelling.  I think every marathoner should be carrying this to their pre-race warm up area.

Cons: Cost: about $50. While it will last forever the product has limited uses. I’ve seen some interesting ways of using it on the forearms, back, etc. but c’mon, there are better products out there for that. Just because something can work a certain way doesn’t mean it is ideal.

The Trigger Wheel

This small tool (about 6”) is a miracle worker. Have you ever woken up with a stiff neck from sleeping in some contortionists style position? How about wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome? Ever see someone who does too much bicep work or sits at a desk all day? Their forearms tend to look shortened, as if they can’t let them hang or straighten. T-Rex anyone? The trigger wheel is the most precision based tool for getting at a trigger point, especially in areas that are not doable or not easily doable with other devices: such as the forearms, wrists, neck, and calves. If you have a partner they can even go at your knots in your back effectively. They advertise this tool as the “tireless thumb.”

Pros: For loosening up the neck muscles, nothing comes close unless you wanna beg your spouse or pay someone $50+ to massage it for you. If you’re dealing with carpal tunnel syndrome this is also effective at loosening the muscles of the wrist to ease strain. Cost: at ~$25 you can never go wrong. Made of plastic and nylon it will last forever.

Cons: This tool has very limited albeit important functions. It’s not the best for large muscles (such as the quads).

The Backnobber

I am disturbed by the frequency and epidemic nature of mid-back trigger points and knots. I will be covering this topic in the future but I will say, I have yet to meet a person I could not find a knot in their mid-back. Never. For those that exercise, just like those that sit at a desk, or even fetal position/side sleepers these knots can be very painful and cause some serious dysfunction. To alleviate myself of the degree of pain these back knots where causing me I bought me a Backnobber. There is another product on the market called the Theracane which would do the same job.

Pros: Used correctly you can pinpoint specific areas of the back very effectively to relieve tension. It’s relatively easy to use and to show others how to use. The Backnobber 2 comes apart in the middle for easy travel, a definite plus!

Cons: Cost, at around $45-65 this nifty piece of plastic is overpriced in my opinion. But maybe not when you consider how much pain back tension can cause. It’s limited to that one function: digging out areas of the back (for traps and mid back it’s very effective, not so much for lower back as it tends to slip off).

Other – Dual Tennis Balls

I got this from Coach Nick Tumminello’s Warm Up Progression SMR DVD. Who knew two tennis balls and some packing tape could be a life changer. Essentially you use this product by going up the columns of muscles that run right beside the spine. By taping two tennis balls together properly you will see there is a groove left between them where the spine can sit and therefore won’t have pressure placed on it. For the mid back, with arms across chest to expose muscles between shoulder blades which frequently develop trigger points, this set up feels so damn gooooooood!

While this is not a specific product review, I will say this: buy good tennis balls. Buy “hard court” balls as they will last a great deal longer than the cheap ones. When they get too soft (I get about a month’s usage for 2-10 people/day), do chuck them out and rebuild a new pair. Don’t forget to RELAX and BREATHE when doing this!

Other Balls

Golf, lacrosse, tennis, hockey and softballs or baseballs can all work wonders for really pinpointing various trigger point areas in the body. It is here I feel each size of ball and hardness makes a big difference. For example, nothing quite gets at the TFL area (dress pant pocket line of body) like a softball (big green one in pic above) which is a very common area of tension, especially for us guys. A softball is also large enough to work on the chest against a wall, another area most everyone should be addressing! A lacrosse ball is magical for glutes (key areas being top outside corner and mid glute) and shoulders (key areas being mid shoulder and rear armpit area). A golf ball can really help you target a knot in your back if you lay on it right. Tennis or hockey balls (the bright orange one above) are much softer than others and can be good for areas that are very tender or if you’re just starting out. The point is, once you’ve been shown how to use these balls in specific areas of the body you’ll want one of each to get the job done.

Summary and Selections

Confused as to which tool(s) are right for you? I know I would be! Because I own or have at least tried all the above tools I find it tough to say I could do without any of them. But again, I’m a self myofascial release junkie. The only way to decide is to pick a category that best fits your situation and go from there.

For runners and triathletes who already dedicate a large amount of time to their sport and don’t want to add too much more, I very highly suggest The Trigger Point Company’s Ultimate 6 System as it was designed for your functions and it does a very good job of that so long as you use it regularly.

For newbies who’ve never done SMR, start at a white or at the least a 36″ blue generation 1 foam roller as well as dual tennis balls (taped up as in the article above), a single tennis ball and a lacrosse ball (for pinpointing trigger points which rollers don’t do well). When it’s time to progress I would suggest the Travel Roller (complete kit with acupressure balls).

For those that will be using SMR infrequently (1-3x/week) I think you’re going to find your trigger points may stay in check but you’ll never see much relief unless being more diligent (4+ times/week). However, doing some is better than none and in this case, The Grid is your best option (as it’s a bit softer than the Travel Roller and Rumble Roller) along with dual tennis balls (taped up as in the article above), a single tennis ball and a lacrosse ball. My next purchase would definitely be the Trigger Wheel for small jobs like the neck and forearms.

For athletes, workout-enthusiasts and those who take SMR seriously (see part 2 for how and why one should) I would suggest first the Travel Roller (complete kit as it comes with acupressure balls which will take care of your soft, medium and firm density pinpointing needs), along with dual tennis balls (taped up as in the article above), the Trigger Wheel for small jobs and for those most serious, add in a Rumble Roller. I know that’s quite an investment but all of these products are extremely well made and will last a long time. For a $200 total investment you’re going to be able to cover all your self massage, recovery and pain management needs very effectively!

Still confused? If I had one and only one to pick go with the Travel Roller complete kit (which has acupressure balls). Follow the DVD’s instructions and you’ll see excellent results.

And that’s where I shall leave this to be continued for Part 2 where I will discuss and video demonstrate how to properly use the above tools on various parts of the body.

 

BTW, you can now find me on:

Instagram @adriancroweathletictraining

Facebook page at Adrian Crowe Athletic Training “The Crowe’s Nest”

YouTube www.youtube.com/acathletictraining

or email me directly at adrian@adriancrowe.com

My Porn

I’m pretty certain those of the internet age all come home from their day of work or school and plop in front of our computer and get straight to our “porn.” I know I do.

We all have something we’re into. Some of us like it unique and rare. Some of us like it strange or dorky. Some of us want it to be earth shattering. Some of us like it hard and bound. Some of us like it filled with toys and electronics. Some of us like it social and group orientated. Some of us like outfits and costumes. And for some people it’s all about the taste of it.

Me……..I dig new fitness equipment!

What did you think I was talking about? Some collect antiques which are unique and rare. Some collect comic books which is strange and dorky (I have some, I admit). Some of us doomsday people want to know exactly when the next earthquake is going to hit and how bad it’s going to be. Some read a lot of books and everyone knows the hardcovers are best. Some like gadgets and the latest TV innovation (I ain’t upgrading till 4D pink-ray crystal technology comes along!). Some are addicted to Facebook and YouTube. Some of you are all about the latest runway fashion. And some of you are into recipes, even though you may only ever cook 1/1000th of what you read.

As a good man, TC Luoma wrote a few years back in this epic article: “So if you’re married, I contend that the amount [of sex] you’re getting is inversely related to the number of cookbooks your wife has in the cupboard.”

YIKES! She’s not even into meat anymore!

Back to my porn…

I’m all about bodyweight training. I’m all for dumbbells, barbell, traditional bodybuilding, powerlifting and just about anything else that works. But a few things have come along and changed the fitness industry forever:

Some for the better: The TRX for example

Some for the worse:

Sure, the BOSU can be useful but more often than not I see it being used incorrectly

So you have to know where to look for the most innovative, effective and worthwhile equipment. Let me get one thing clear first:

Weight or resistance training has one, and only one function: to make you stronger 

The fact that you getting stronger just so happens to cause the symptom of making you look healthier and sexy (fuller, denser, shaply muscles) is only that: a symptom. In fact, the second your body adapts to the strength level you’re currently working with it will also stop creating more positive shape! Want more shape and want to look better? It usually means making a better exercise selection and making it more difficult be that load increases, speed increases or decreases, range of motion increases or decreases or complexity variations to the exercise.

So it would stand to reason the most likely place to see what the equipment of the future will look like would in the strength industry.

My Porn

Sorinex – the originator of the Land Mine, these guys have built some of the most unique and incredible equipment on the planet. Check out this power rack (the one staple every gym should have; except they guys went ALL out on their design as seen in the videos). Check out this unique piece of equipment (man, if I only had the space for it. But when I upgrade to the Base Camp it does come as an attachment there too! Or how about this big boy (oh hell yea, imagine the grunting and lunking and could be had!!)

Elite FTS – best known, equipment wise for The Prowler these guys have an incredible site aimed at getting stronger (including fantastic articles, videos and seminars). All their equipment is top notch and I happen to own a few unique pieces and will be picking up a lot more in the future. Plus they have some badass t-shirts which I’m gonna have to snag soon for me and my gal.

Marc St. Jules & Stabilizer Training – a relative unknown in the industry, Marc St. Jules has some interesting training equipment and some very interesting training methods. He fits in the hybrid trainer category (one who takes traditional strength and conditioning training as well as “new school/functional” methods and combines them into one) along the lines of Nick Tuminnello, JC Santana or Scott Abel and these coaches are the ones I turn to most for information. He’s also out on Vancouver Island so I’m hoping one day soon to get out there on a “vacation.” Check out this top-of-the-line rack system called the Dream Machine or this multi-user rack called the King Cage or this unique balance platform aptly named Stability Spring. See more here. And watch this video as it so very much changed me as a trainer when I first saw it.

Lifeline USA – These guys make some incredible equipment I very much look forward to torturing my clients with in the future! You think the ab wheel was tough, look at this! Suck at pull ups and don’t have access to an assist machine set up like I do then check this out. Most people suck at push ups (especially the ones that think they’re awesome and can rep 50+ at a time) but those that are good at them, make it harder by adding this.

Other noteables:

New York Barbells (wait till I get one of these)

Rogers Athletics

MoveStrongFit

Rae Crowther

There are probably a dozen more but I’ll spare you for now.

Do I dare ask what your “porn” is?

The Ultimate Breakfast

Breakfast is by far the most important meal of the day. You’ve heard it before. I could go on and on about how it jumpstarts your body and how it sets the stage for weight loss or weight gain (favorably or unfavorably for both).

I’m not into meal plans. I’ll do them if specially requested but I’m of firm belief that we should eat when we’re hungry so long as they are the right foods. You all know broccoli is good for you (not for me as it gives me the farts; well I guess that makes it also not good for my girlfriend when I eat it too) and deep fried potatos are terrible for you. You know that a lean cut of meat is better than pizza.

When people tell me they don’t know what to eat I’m sorry but you’re full of shit. And probably literally as well (your GI tract probably looks like a nuclear waste field)!

You may not know HOW to eat for your health or the goals you have (weight loss, muscle gain, etc) and that’s where meal plans can help.

I guarantee you this: screw up your breakfast and the whole day is most likely going to be bad.  Why? Again blood sugar level fluctuations, poor food choices when you finally get hungry, starving yourself half the day and over caffienating to get by on energy…I could go on and into detail but I’ll spare you.

Bad idea unless you have a hate-on for your adrenal glands

The Exception to the Rule

Before I continue with this breakfast is for champions speech I want those that simply have ZERO appetite upon waking to read this:  http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/nutrition/logic-does-not-apply-part-2-breakfast/

I very much agree with what he’s saying in this article. If I didn’t wake up starving every morning and in mental need of energy I would probably follow these suggestions.

I do have two logistic and realistic problems with this article:

  1. When people miss breakfast their next meal is usually not healthy. A muffin and large coffee at Tim Hortons is not healthy. I don’t care if you went with the cran-bran muffin or not!
  2. If the above happens you set off a far worse cycle of insulin/blood sugar ups and downs that leads to far more terrible food choices in the evening.
  3. The people most guilty of missing breakfast are also the ones most “busy” in the morning. Moms especially. Busy-bodies generally don’t slow down – period. Until they’re sleeping of course (which probably isn’t enough either). So I’m again, assuming that later in the day you’re most likely not packing and/or preparing the most nutritious of meals the rest of the day either.

Now if I’m wrong and you missing breakfast is normal and when you do start eating, you’re eating clean, enough food and keeping those blood sugar levels stable all the way until bedtime, I salute you! Keep doing you!

This Breakfast Is For Champions!

Steak and eggs. Oatmeal and protein powder. Egg whites and cottage cheese. Soy milk and Kashi cereal. Ask 10 different people what they would consider the healthiest breakfast and you’ll get 10 different answers. So the following is MY OPINION, nothing more.

Do this:

1) Cook a bunch of Quinoa (it is like rice; you cook it 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water) the night before. I like to cook a cup at a time which gives me enough for 3-4 days. In the morning reheat 1/2 a cup of quinoa. You could cook it but I’m trying to save you time by having you cook it the night beforehand. Why quinoa versus oatmeal? Read this and this. I’m simply one of those people that when I eat oats too often it develops into gastrointestinal stress. Quinoa never does that. I do eat oatmeal from time to time, just not regularly.

2) Add 1/4 cup Nutracleanse. I’ll do a product review on this stuff in the near future but for now just go buy some and try it. Read about it all here: http://www.nutracleanse.biz/aboutus.php Where to buy it is also on the website (there are a zillion places and I may start carrying it in the future).

3) Add in a dash, splash, handful and sprinkle of every wonderful superfood you can think of to the mix. Get creative. For my creation I added this:

I choose these because: the Navitas Trail Mix (goldenberries, goji berries and mulberries) are fruits high in lots of good nutrients/vitamins that I would never eat otherwise.  Navtias Cocao Nibs (raw cocoa), we’ve all heard chocolate is good for us; sorry but cocao is good for us, “chocolate is good for us” junkies are probably choosing the wrong kind of “chocolate.” I get my Navitas products from Choices Grocery Market (the Navitas packaging in Canada looks a little different; clear bags). It’s pricey, I’ll warn you, but you’re not using that much each day. Almonds and walnuts are good fats and good for my brain. But mix your nuts often. Cashews, pecans, pistachios; no rules except don’t use a lot or you’ll blow your calories way outta line! Cinnamon tastes good but it’s good for blood sugar stabilizing as well.

I usually don’t weigh my dashes of this stuff but for arguement sake this time I did: came up with 5g of cocao nibs, 33g of the trail berry mix, 10g of sliced almonds, 10g of walnuts and copious amounts of cinnamon.

4) Splash 150-300mL of Almond Breeze (almond “milk”) to desired consistency (see below). Mix well as the Nutracleanse absorbs a great deal of the liquid. I choose almond “milk” because cow’s milk is crap. Look up lactose intolerance, especially by race (eg. near 100% of Asians do not produce the lactase enzyme required to break down lactose, milk’s carbohydrate/sugar). Rice milk is disgusting. Soy milk is crap. Almond milk is a better compromise. Suck it up and buy the “original”  “unsweetened” variety. Way less calories to deal with.

Looking for a more porridge type consistency: just use 150mL of Almond Breeze and it’ll look like this:

For a more cereal type consistency (which I prefer) simply add an addtional 150mL of Almond Breeze and it’ll look like this:

The Nutrition Label

Being that I actually weighed everything this time (1/2 cup cooked quinoa, 1/4 cup Nutracleanse, 5 g cocao nibs, 33g goldenberry-mulberry-goji berry mix, 10g walnuts, 10g sliced almonds, copious cinnamon) I can provide some caloric and other info:

Total Calories: 539 cals

Total Fat: 27g (all good fats)

Total Carbs: 63g

Total Fiber: 20g (yes, you read that right!)

Total Protein: 18g

Freaking out right now, aren’t you? Especially if you’re a woman.

Closing Arguments

Try this Ultimate Breakfast for one week! Most likely you’ll eat less overall in your day (if you’re struggling with that). Most likely you’ll make better food choices the rest of your day (due to stable blood sugar levels). Most likely you’ll be so full and full of energy that you’ll find yourself extremely productive in the morning. And most likely you’ll be leaner come the end of the week!!

Freaking out about the 500+ calories. Look, say if you eat 3-4 meals a day, even if all of them were this dense (which they shouldn’t be unless you’re trying to pack on muscle) that would still only put you around 1500-2000 cals/day which is the appropriate amount for most people trying to lose weight and be healthy. Also starting with this satiating (appetite destroying is more like it) of a meal in the morning means you won’t be super hungry all day and pig out later. So in the long run “front loading” your calories, in my opinion, is the sane way to fat loss, muscle gain and maintain high energy levels throughout your day.

20g of fiber: most of us don’t get that in a day, let alone in one meal. Add in veggies eaten throughout the day. Add in an apple a day (good practice). Add in fiber from other quality grains (if you’re eating any)…you’ll easily hit 30-50g of fiber per day. A great amount for staying “clean” and keeping things moving well through our gastrointestinal tract.

18g of protein: 3.5 whole egg equivalent. This takes care of enough for the morning. Add more in later meals if you have greater daily protein needs or train in the morning.

Vegetarian: I don’t do this on purpose but it’s worth arguing for those that are anti-animal protein than this meal is vegetarian friendly.

Need I say more???

Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

A HUGE WARNING!!! For those on ANY medication read this!!!

Look, I’m not a nutritionist, dietician, doctor, guru or anything of the sort. I said before this Ultimate Breakfast is my opinion of what’s best for health, weight mangement and dietary sanity.

High fiber intake can lead to a blocking/lessening of medications (and dietary supplements) when taken around the same time. If you’re on birth control for example, and take your pill in the morning, DO NOT be eating 10-20g of fiber with your pill. That’s asking for trouble.

The Newbie Peak – A Personal Story & Lessons Learned

When I first took up weight training it was to one end: gettin’ HOOGE!

Long story: I was a bean pole as a kid. When I was 14-ish I sat for 2 years on the couch, stopped playing sports, went through growth spurts, ate my mother’s and grandmother’s house out of every bowl of cereal possible and got chubby. My highest weight ever was 194lbs (at around 5’10”; hell, I still don’t even weight that much and I’m only a 1/2″ taller). That’s when my good buddy Ryan got me to play a season of community league football with him.

All the football padding is hiding my own “padding.” Me at my heaviest: 194lbs

While in high school, I would watch that weight plummet from 194lbs to 136lbs in the course of about 18 months. How? To be honest, I let my young metabolism do the work for me. I just stopped eating beyond dinner. Trust me it wasn’t easy. Starving oneself, especially admidst still being a growing young man, was probably not healthy but how can I argue with a 48lbs fat loss??  Every morning when I woke I would check my stomach with the infamous pinch test and sure enough, it kept getting smaller.

My grade 10-12 high school ID’s. Looks like I got younger, not older. And let it be known I was wearing Echo shirts before the Rhino logo and before the name change to the current Ecko! That’s just how gangster I was!

My first job outta high school was a cashier at Safeway ( I think I was 18). It’s there I first picked up a muscle magazine; this exact one in fact:

I’m pretty damn sure that was the exact moment my life began this path I’m living today

 To shorten this story I’ll say that when I first picked up a weight it took me about 3 months to put on nearly 30lbs of muscle (from 136lbs to 165lbs). Impossible you say? Ask any guy who’s been training 10 or more years and he’ll tell you a similar story of how the first response to hard weight training is beyond belief.

~3 months after I picked up my first weight: 165lbs (up from 136lbs).

Damn I miss those yellow pants!

To finish the story and get to the lessons, over the next 10 years I would see my weight fluctuate between that 165lbs-190lbs (soft but more muscle) and steady itself somewhere between it’s current 178-186lbs. So in the first 3 months I went from 136lbs to 165lbs (as you can see I’m not soft in that picture above) and yet it took me another 13 years to put on the next 10-12lbs of weight. This tells me two things: 1) I was never consistent enough for my own good and 2) That’s the difficulty level between the first 3 months and the next 3+ years. The only way I know to change that is to seek out someone who knows a great deal more than you and learn from them. Man, I wish I was exposed to a good personal trainer 10 years ago! Where were the internet, T-Nation, and awesome coaches like Christian Thibaudeau, Nick Tumminello, Mike Boyle and Scott Abel in my early 20’s?!?!

Now I already mentioned this 3 month theory before. Go back and read that

Today’s story – THE PEAK

I see it every single day. The stall, the plateau, the decline, the slow…the peak. Especially in women! When a person first takes up training, especially with a personal trainer in their arsenal, you see incredible changes to the body and to be fair, it probably has much more to do with blunt effort than methodical planning. You quite simply just do work!

I don’t even need to take a show of hands to ask how many of us once we’ve seen some good progress all of a sudden lose the hunger, the aggression, the motivation to keep pushing that hard. A guy starts beefing up to the point his friends are regularly commenting on his arms and chest getting big or a woman starts having her pants nearly fall off her because of the fat loss and BANG! we ease off the effort.

What we don’t focus on and is really the lesson for today is that the body is a system of adaptation. What you accomplished yesterday will most likely not create the same results tomorrow as your body learns, changes, grows, gets stronger, more resilient to the stress you’re throwing at its nervous system, cardiovascular system and skeletal muscle system. That’s why your arms and booty look better. That’s why walking quickly up a flight of stairs doesn’t leave you wheezing like a 3 pack-a-day smoker.

Sometimes this can happen

The Solution

Step it up. Again. Just like going from nothing to your first 3 months was a step up. There is no other solution. Period.

I’ve often said if guys trained with the zeal of women and women trained with the zeal of men that we’d accomplish a great deal with that alone. Meaning women usually over-target cardio, stomach and leg training; men usually over-target load increasing upper body exercises (meaning they always try to lift more on things like bench press).

“So you’re saying women should bench press and men should endlessly watch tv on the stair climber?”

No. Not at all. But target your weaknesses. For women that’s strength. For men that’s usually cardiovascular endurance as well as leg training. Guys, train legs three times a week with gusto and guaranteed your body will look WAY better even if you give up the bicep curls!

Women, trust me on this, you belong in the weight room. After your 3 month cardio stint and the initial weight loss talked about above: Get off the cardio floor. Get out of the Zumba classes. Start picking up heavy weight. Start doing incredibly challenging circuits or exercises like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm2Ot0iUVmI  this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8X5IU6FtTKc or this:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhWb42RXA90

Men, cut the bullshit. You’re being a wussy at this point. Create some goals and hunt them down like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0edG07Vs-M or again, try out some challenging exercises or circuits like these gents have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVOUiF0udLc and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc1_9ytKkGk (Matt is a young dude who’s only been at this ~4 months; you wait till we do a success story on him in the next couple of months! He’s gone from never deadlifting to hitting 300lbs since I started with him).

I know it’s not easy. I know it gets frustrating. I know we slip and beat ourselves up. I know what it’s like losing and gaining motivation. Step it up. Get a training partner who is stronger than you. Hire a personal trainer (via referral of a friend who you see getting results!).

What you accomplished yesterday will not produce the same positive results today. Let that sink in for a minute.

Step it up!