Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tales from the front - Athlete's Cell training Camp and staring down weaknesses

"Its this - you face your fear, your pain, your discomfort, take ownership of it, all of it, then accelerate through it."

Defining UNSCARED- Guy Petruzzelli

Hey all,

Its been a bit, but I have to say, I've been extremely busy. As the heart of race season approaches, focus begins turning towards getting everything dialed in, nailing workouts, tacking down nutrition, you know the drill. But in the middle of this, I took the opportunity to do something that scares a lot of people - find out exactly what holes remain in my fitness that ultimately affect how I perform in my sport, and in life. This past weekend I attended Athlete's Cell Camp 10, in Eau Claire, WI. The motto of the camp - "engineering genetic warfare". It had been 2 years since I had been at a camp like this, the last one in sunny southern California. I thought I knew what to expect. I was wrong. And I couldn't have been happier.

I'm not going to walk you through every moment of the camp, lead by Athlete's Cell head coach - Cody Burkhardt, (@nerdreinvented) instead, provide the biggest highlights and lessons learned.

1. Most elite athletes hate having their weaknesses exposed, especially in a public setting. Guess what, too bad. Ego can be a huge inhibitor to progress, so when you are looking to really improve, ditch the ego, close the mouth and open your ears. Actually, this applies to any athlete or person looking to improve in life in general. If you really are chasing performance, then you must be prepared to hear and see what you are doing wrong. Its not personal, so stop taking it that way.

2. Skill work is as important, if not more so, than any other training you do. You think you are running like a gazelle? Have someone who is a skilled POSE running method coach systematically dissect your stride, then see where you are leaking energy. Wanting to improve your lifts? Spend 20, yes 20, minutes with nothing more than a PVC pipe, standing in a pool of your own sweat, going slow and methodical for every part of every lift in the Olympic and Power domain. This includes high level functional fitness athletes who can move massive amounts of weight working with that same piece of PVC trying to get the right muscles to fire, constantly being stopped if the lift begins to fall apart. If you were lucky, you got to move to a 15 lb training bar. You positive you are using your posterior chain when cycling? Yeah, maybe not. Again, it came down to being open to critique, open to how to fix it, then be prepared to go home and use these tools to improve.Stop racing to train. Training is practice. Its an opportunity to learn and get better. When you rush, skip skill, skip mobility, skip strength, yes all you hard headed endurance athletes - strength - as in learn how to pick up heavy shit and move it properly, then you are never going to find out how good you can be.

3. I can't stress this point enough - if you are an endurance athlete, looking to get faster, looking to get stronger, that WILL NOT happen if all you do is endurance. AND, that also includes "the sexy met-cons", which are designed to get your heart rate up, but not really give you any sense as to what your weaknesses are. You must learn to lift weights. And I know that most of you hate to do that. Because its "uncomfortable" or your afraid to get "bulky", or it doesn't seem like exercise, because you are so programmed to think you need to be in a puddle of sweat from high heart rate training, usually in an endurance setting, which includes met-cons. Well, dear snowflakes, get over yourself. Get past your fears. And please, please, stop with the excuses. Life is full of them, and the more you fall back on them, the more likely you are to stay stuck exactly where you are. Don't give yourself an excuse to not succeed. I will say this about Cody Burkhardt, on day one, he made that point extremely clear. And at the end of camp, everyone of us was grateful he did. Because everything we did was uncomfortable, tough, sometimes blindingly painful. That's how we improve.

4.  Its not just about "staying in the suck". Its more than that. Its about being prepared to take a hit, walk through it, take another hit, walk through it, and keep walking through the tough times, to embrace all the things we aren't good at, and make them a priority to eliminate. We lifted 6 times in 3 days. We did hypoxic training. We did mental toughness training. We were told and shown things about ourselves that initially frustrated us, and then we became grateful to discover what we were missing. Where we were leaking energy, physically, mentally, emotionally. And we were given a choice - accept the critique and the solution to fix the issues, or, keep doing what you were doing, which meant not improving. We learned that fitness doesn't reach a final "peak", that it is something that can continue to improve, as long you are a willing participant in the process. And this is where things got really real - don't tell your coach, friends, family, etc, that you want to be an elite endurance athlete, or elite functional fitness athlete, but only are willing to do the training you like. If you really and truly want to be A, and it takes B to reach that goal, then you can't do X and assume that will get you there. Basically it means that you aren't being honest about your goals, and that you aren't really willing to work as hard as you claim. That's not a bad thing, but it requires you to take a really hard look at yourself and be honest about what you want, and what you are willing to do to get there. And sometimes being honest with yourself is harder than being honest with anyone else. But you better do it sooner rather than later.

6. Be prepared to be your own experiment. Don't assume what works for the person next to you, will work for you. That means nutrition, training, rest/sleep, hydration, mental training, focus. If you aren't willing to do that, perhaps its time to consider checkers. Puzzles. You don't get better via osmosis or black magic. Life simply doesn't work that way. There are no short cuts, no magic bullet. There is work, failing, learning, and success. Anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something, so check your wallet.

5. Underlying everything we did was the premise of UNSCARED. I gave my definition of it above; it was the same one I used at camp. There isn't really a better way to explain it. Instead of dancing around uncomfortable situations, or things that you don't like, face that shit, own it, own your fear of it, and then accelerate through it. I mean plow ahead and keep going. Because on the other side of the pain, and fear is the light, the answers. And once you get those, there will be more fears to face and accelerate through, and guess what? The more you do that, the easier it gets. It doesn't wipe out fear, but it does provide you the framework on how to attack them. That's what matters.

Having been immersed in Crossfit Endurance for the last 5 years, this was a welcome wake up call on why it works. Many thanks to Brian MacKenzie, Cody Burkhardt, Erin Cafaro, Kelly Starrett, P.J. Newton, and all the great folks from Athlete's Cell. Thanks for kicking my ass, and opening my eyes. It felt good to be back. And thank you for arming me with tools to take home to share with my athletes and people who come to my classes.

If you want to learn more about everything mentioned above, come to class at INTENT. I promise you won't be disappointed.

Stay strong,