Thursday, August 26, 2010

Squadron PT 19 Aug 2010

I led squadron PT one last time in Ramstein before my PCS back to the states. 

With a large, diverse unit, it can take some thorough planning and creativity to provide a workout that is challenging, safe, timely, and well executed.

Ramstein AF PTLs learning functional fitness concepts during Total Fit PTL training

Some things to consider:
Our Unit is 100+ members and any number between 35 and 70 might show--if twice as many as you expect show you may have equipment availability issues.  Have a fall back plan.

Large groups are more difficult quality control for complex movements--especially if you are the only person leading/coaching the session.  Most movements can be simplified (e.g. make squats "box squats" to reduce the amount of quality control and cueing needed per person for each movment).  If you plan to introduce a new and semi-complex movement such as a kettlebell swing, it is very important to make sure that any other exercises done that day are very simple (pushups, situps, burpees, running, step ups, etc.), or were previously instructed very thoroughly, so that the majority of attention can be devoted to the new movement.  It is also very worthwhile to enlist the help of other competent physical training leaders when available.  Ratios of training leaders to participants will vary based on the skill level of the trainer, the experience of the trainees, and the complexity of the workout of the day.

One of the biggest mistakes military PTLs make is to regularly participate in the workout.  Granted, there ARE some workouts that are simple enough that you can participate.  And if you are working with a small sized/highly skilled group (say 4 or 5 relatively up to speed members) you can get your hands dirty.  With a large unit however, it is simply impossible to be effective at coaching others if your nose is in the mudd doing pushups.  It's important to get out amongst the unit, motivate, and cue-in members on their form.  This results in improved fitness with less injuries for your members.

Equipment availability is a concern.  Our gym is not set up with enough barbells to run 70 people through a weightlifting session.  Bodyweight movements are great for large groups because little/no additional equipment is needed and they can be modified to higher or lower fitness levels (incline, decline, partial, plyometric, etc.).  There are some great benefits to adding resistance and learning control of external objects though.  Some equipment can be found/made, also a smart circuit can be created so that members can rotate through and recieve the benefits of external resistance.

In a large group, there are mixed ability levels.  Levels of conditioning and fitness experience, age, movitation, and prior-existing injuries can vary greatly.  My unit is a medical unit.  We have 18 year old Airmen, 50+ year old Colonels/LTCs, battle ready medics, pregnant members, knee braces, and everything in between.  It's helpful to have a toolbox full of modifications for each and every exercise.  Be prepared to modify the intensity or the range of motion or to substitute an entire different movement based on abilities and pain with movement.

If it's not a motivating workout, people will sandbag it.  This is a tough one.  People are motivated by different things.  Unfit individuals may give up if they feel overwhelmed, overfit individuals may hold back if they feel the workout is not hard enough--"saving energy for their 'real workout' after unit PT".  And some people sandbag perhaps just because they don't like to work.  Creating workouts that allow each member to push themselves at their own pace is smart.  Not everyone should run the same distance or do the same number of pushups every time.  Also, changing up the scheme/goal of a workout between time priority (you have a set time, do as many reps, rounds, or work within that time), task priority (do x amount or roundsand reps as fast as you can), occasional team/partner workouts, and various other makeups can be useful in tapping in to the different ways in which each person is motivated.

Here's the workout I put together for our Squadron:

I was able to reserve a fitness center with some equipment, including a 9 rowers, 16 Dynamax medicine balls, those green and pink aerobics steps, a few kettlebells, cones, and tons of floor matts.  I planned for ~50 members of mixed fitness levels.  The Squadron only meets once per month for group PT, the training leader rotates, and new members come and go frequently.  So I have to assume that conditioning is perhaps not at the high intensity level I would like for them, I also have to assume every movement they learn is new. 

Before the anaerobic effort, the Squadron was formed into 6 lines and ran in hears through a dynamic warmup starting with light jogs and shuffles and moving to more complex patterns such as hip add/abduction and tiger crawls.  Members were given the opportunity to get themselves water before moving on to the anaerobic circuit (10-15 minutes).

The "workout":
There are 7 stations, members complete 3 rounds, spending 45 seconds at each of the 7 stations, each round.  The goal is to complete as many reps as possible at each station.

The stations:
1) Wallballs - A "butt target" was placed at approcimate hip-parallel height behind each ball.  This gives them feedback on their depth and makes it easier for a beginner to think about "sitting back with their hips", then driving from their heels versus starting the movement by throwing their knees forward--greatly reducing the amount of attention needed to be paid to each member.  Squat down and touch ball with butt, then accelerate up through heels and utilize power from hips to help throw the ball to a 8 ft (for those 66" or shorter) or 10 ft (taller than 66") target.  Wallball weights varied from 10# to 20#.

2) Situps - Simple enough.  Start the rep by touching ground over your head, then begin curling up until you touch you toes.  Members were instructed NOT to ancor their feet--forcing the abs to do the work and lessening the contribution of the legs and hip flexors.  Poor-fit members were instructed to perform a hollow-rock-like movement to get to the situp position if they were unable to complete any more strict situps.  Ab-Mats would be great ... we don't have them.

3) Rowing - goal is to generate max calories during the 45 sec.  Only strap in one foot--greatly improves transition speed each round.

4) Pushups--full range of motion.  If full range of motion is not obtained, then member drops to knees and continues to do pushups.  If knee pushups are also exhausted, member will hold a plank at the top of the pushup position.

5) Box Jumps/Box Step Ups--Boxes, benches, and aerobic steps were set at various heights from 8" to 24" to accomodate varying comfort/athleticism.  Members with prior knee isues were instructed to step down from each rep.

6) Suicide Sprint--Sprint 10 yd, and return to start, immediatley turn and sprint 20 yd, then return, then immediately turn and sprint to 30 yd and back.  Members were instructed to only complete one suicide spint focusing on quality output--looking for a sprint not a jog.  Time remaining after completing the sprint was awarded as rest.  It pays to be fast.

7) Rest and Stretch - This station was added more or less at the last minute to accomodate for slightly more members than planned.  Otherwise, everyone would have rested at the same time after completing all 6 stations.

4-D graphic representation of PT layout.  Careful not to cut yourself on the sharpness.

Every 45 seconds, at the command of the PTL, the members moved on to the next station and began working immediately (generally by the time they got to the next station they had already burned 10-15 of their 45 seconds in transit--built in rest). 

Circuit time: 15 minutes, 45 seconds.  When you factor in that 1 of the 7 stations was rest, and lets say 10 seconds was spent in transition betwen each station ... you could estimate that 10 minutes and 30 seconds were actually spent in anaerobic effort.

The majority of "coaching" focus was devoted to the wallballs station and the rowing station with occasional passes by the other areas.

After the anaerobic circuit, ~7 minutes was spent in coached stretching per the request of the commander.

Total time: ~40 minutes plus setup and cleanup

Result: everyone sweat, nobody got hurt, and the new Squadron Commander said something along the line of "the was different, but F-ck that was a good workout ... damn."  Then was dissapointed when he found out I was PCSing and asked if I could leave some resources with the other PTLs to keep this type of program going after I leave.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sexy Miracle Foods, 2010

My friend sent me a link to this article on 22 disease-fighting superfoods the other day with a comment "check out the last one on the list".  Corn.

I generally don't eat corn anymore.  However, I HAVE eaten my fair share of corn without any permanent ills that are readily apparent at 26.  Regardless, a superfood because a study revealed that corn is "rich in the carotenoids zeaxanthin and lutein, two antioxidants that protect your eyes and skin from UV damage." Really?

This is classic reductionist logic at it's best:
  • Food A contains ingredient B.
  • Ingredient B has been found in one study to have some role in disease C (and let's also go ahead and ignore the quality of that ONE  STUDY or whether or not there are any confounding studies for now)
  • Therefore, food A should be eaten regularly to safeguard against disease C. 
Should we take a look at the amount of ingredient B in food A to see if it's enough to have an impact on disease C?  (it is not uncommon to see these nutrient studies using an amount of CONCENTRATED substance that you might need to swallow a  truck load of actual food to obtain an equivalent therapeutic dose)
*by the way, if you're specifically after lutein or xeaxanthan, consult this Ranking of Foods Containing Lutein from the Low Vision Center in Indiana.  Corn's 790 mg per half cup serving pales in comparison to Kale (21,900 mg/.5 cup), Spinach (12,600mg/.5 cup cooked), or Red Peppers (6,800 mg/.5 cup).  Eat a variety of veggies and you should be set.

Should we perhaps look at studies consuming the actual food AS A WHOLE to confirm that we can connect A to C? (e.g. look at the effect of corn consumption on UV damage instead of lutein consumption)

Or what about how the food fits in to an overall diet plan?  Does eating more corn bully out other vegetables higher in nutrients (kale?).

Should we look to see if that item increases risk for other ailments? 
(For example, this paper from the Weston A Price Foundation highlights that "The US Food and Drug Administration lists over 200 studies on its database showing the toxicity of soy. Numerous studies show that soy consumption leads to nutrient deficiencies, digestive disorders, endocrine disruption and thyroid problems." Go soy ...)

Nope. Let's just conclude that because it contains that one nutrient that it's a fountain of youth ... and then put it together with a list of 21 other foods to make a miracle list and sandwich it between a sexy, black and white Calvin Cline jeans add and a cleverly captioned photo of a chihuahua balancing a Twinkie on it's nose so we can sell magazines.

"I am a Banana!" - Rejected

Speaking of Weston A Price ... They recently posted a thicker, more scientific article on the flaws of reductionism, here.  That article also links back to the surge of fun that was had discussing the flaws of the China Study over the past few weeks.

So, after reading this should we avoid mushrooms and watermelon and Brussels sprouts?  Nope.  Those, and most of the foods referenced in the article, are still great to eat.  As are a plethora of other nutrient-dense foods that didn't make the Super 22 (how about dem mustard greens? or garlic, ginger, asparagus ...).  

And to be fair, a few of the studies they mentioned for other foods did look at consumption of that actual food:
Be-leaf in cabbage?  

What is important is to realize that each and every food (note, I did not say food product) has a unique nutrient profile, whether a study said so or not and whether they were featured in the beacon of health communication that is Self or left to wilt in the corners of the produce section (poor celery root gets no love these days).  If it's a deep colorful shade, it's probably rich in something.  Eat quality protein sources, lots of non-starchy veggies, sources of essential fats and some fruits and you'll meet your basic needs.  Determine portions, proportions, and extras based on your activity and energy needs, goals, and individual sensitivities and you'll be rocking.

 If you look closely there are 12 superfoods, two umbrellas and one ninja hidden in my breakfast ...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Archives: Club 100 Spotlights

The links below will guide you through a series of article/interviews I put together spotlighting various Ramstein Airmen who scored perfect on their Air Force Fitness Assessment.  While the Air Force Fitness Assessment is admittedly not the definitive measure of health or performance, it DOES take effort to get a perfect score.  And it'd be reasonable to say that if you are getting a perfect score on your fitness assessment that you are more likely to be closer to the "fit" end of the spectrum than the "sick" end.

What I'd like you to note is what these Athletes (and I call them Athletes because I believe that every person wearing a military uniform should be an athlete) have in common.  Whether they are young or seasoned, Airmen or Colonels, male or female, first time perfect scorers or consistent high performers, they are all doing something right.

Fitness can be achieved at any age, no matter your background, genetics, or environment.  Do the work, eat the good food, results will come.

Maj Richard Soto, 86th Medical
Operations Squadron
(Courtesy Photo, Kaiserslautern American)

What It Takes To Make Club 100

Bring Up Your Fitness, Join Club 100

Efficiency In The Gym Pays Dividends

Club 100 Member Talks About Getting Functional

Dialing In To Club 100

Reduce Miles, Perform Better

Prioritize Fitness

Stronger And Faster

Set Goals, Get Fit

First Post! The Origins Of Our Diet

What better way to start a blog on health and human performance than with an excellent video series discussing the origins of our diet.  Please check out the videos below in which Prof Loren Cordain, Ph.D. gives his lecture - "Origins and Evolution of the Western Diet: Health Implications for the 21st Century" at the CrossFit Football Denver Certification.  Enjoy!

Part 1

Part 2