Strength & Speed


"If you want something you never had, you have to be willing to do something you have never done."

S&S Articles

Everyone I know on Steroids Looks Like Crap

Posted by Strength & Speed on April 16, 2017 at 11:40 AM

      “Everyone I know that took steroids looks like crap.” I have said it before and I will probably say it again in the future. I am not referring to the damaging health effects of steroids but I am referring to the quality of their physique. If you are reading this, you may be thinking I am saying steroids do not work effectively at building muscle. That is also not what I am saying.

      What I am saying is that most of the people I know who have admitted to anabolic substance use currently have mediocre to poor physiques. People who I work with or have trained with that used Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs) usually look like crap because they were missing the key ingredient to begin with….consistent hard work. Most of the guys I know who turned to PEDs is because they were looking for the quick fix from a couple months of hard work. However, eventually other things take priority, the drugs become too expensive or they just lose interest. The missing ingredient, consistent had work comes back to bite them in the ass.

      Once they stop using and the major effects of the drug wear off, their shitty work ethic shines through. This leaves them with less than exceptional physiques, often leaving me with the thought “You used steroids?!?! Maybe you should ask for a refund.”



      There are obviously a ton of exceptions to this as demonstrated by hundreds of bodybuilders and physique competitors just one Google search away. There are also a ton Facebook and Instagram which are also just a click away. Consistent hard work plus PEDs will produce significant results as demonstrated by Lance Armstrong, Alberto Cantador, any professional IFBB bodybuilder, Rita Jeptoo or Justin Gatlin.

     If you plan on using PEDs (which I am against), then make sure you are at least putting the key ingredient of consistent hard work before using them. Furthermore, if you do plan on using them stay away from competitive races (see my article about Lance Armstrong showing interest in Obstacle Course Racing) and organizations/events that are declared as drug free. If you do your research feel free to legally take them if you plan on competing in drug using events (NPC, IFBB, some powerlifting and strongman organizations) or are using it solely for aesthetic reasons. In my opinion if you are not competing it is not much different than getting plastic surgery to improve you appearance and consists of a personal choice.

 

Movie Falsities: You have been brainwashed

Posted by Strength & Speed on March 1, 2017 at 10:40 AM

     Not surprising to anyone, but movies often show stuff that is completely inaccurate, improbable and sometime impossible. They are provided to us so companies, actors and staff can make money while providing the rest of the world with entertainment. Here are some classic examples pulled from a variety of sports based movies. Typically the underdog comes from behind to win the big game or match even though he does a lot of the following. These are my top 5 movie falsities that have been brainwashing you negatively.


1. Train hard and it will make a difference in a week

The season starts and the team is getting their butt kicked all year. However, the first playoff game is in a week….so it is time to step up our training. Actually, if the big game is only a week away you should probably train hard for two or three days and then taper. If it is a race, then maybe you should have been tapering the last two weeks. Either way a week of hard work is not going to fix things unless you come up with a magical play like the flying V.



2. Go hard all the time

BEAST MODE!!!! Wait a minute, as my favorite OCR athlete and Olympic Biathlete says “Beast Mode is a Myth”- Marco Bedard. Training montages often show tons of high intensity work really crushing things to get to that peak level. However, for events like running, OCR and even team sports, your fitness is built through consistent low to medium intensity work mixed with some high intensity training. Which leads directly into the next falsity…



3. A lifetime of sloth can be fixed in a couple of weeks

If there are two people and one has been training hard for months and years on end while the other just started training this season. Chances are the sloth is going to lose. There are exceptions due to the genetically gifted but chances are the new athlete is in a for a loss.



4. Nonsense training leads to dramatic results

Nonsense training actually violates the rule of specificity. Specificity means you practice whatever task you have to perform because it will make you better at it (better neurological pathway, stronger muscles for that activity, more fluid movement, etc). Paint the fence, carry this bucket up this hill, toss eggs back and forth or whatever else is portrayed in movies often loosely relates to the actual activity they are being trained for. These scenes typically just make dramatic parts that film well. Those athletes would be better suited training for whatever sport/race they are doing instead of doing supplementary exercises.



5. Bad attitudes are turned into great ones

The people who do really well in sports do not show up thinking, “Man I hate practicing”. In fact it is the opposite. It is the love of the game, which makes their behavior obsessive and even unhealthy. Although unhealthy is usually the difference between achieving results and someone’s opinion of not achieving an appropriate outcome based on work input. Chances are if you are someone you know is showing up to train with a bad attitude they will no longer be part of the team/club/sport in a couple of weeks or months.


      Pay attention next time you watch any sports based move of an underdog coming from behind to win the big one. Chances are perpetuating several or all of these falsities. I guess telling people that a mix of genetic gifts and a lifetime of hard work produces great results does not make for compelling movies. Aw well, at least you know the real answer now.

Drop Your Rep Range

Posted by Strength & Speed on January 15, 2017 at 10:50 AM

      It is the New Year and while the gym is overflowing with resolution members, chances are if you are reading this you have not stopped going to the gym at all this year. However, your progress may have stalled over the last couple of weeks (or months). How do you break this plateau? The answer is dropping your rep range.

     Even if your goal is not to be a powerlifter, anyone looking for a better physique or more strength can benefit from dropping your rep range. Most people have heard that rep ranges of 10 (or 8-12) is the best for hypertrophy or building a physique that looks impressive. While that is still good advice, if you never lower your reps you will most likely stall your progress. By taking some of your complex or compound movements and lowering your rep range to five or below, you will gain strength. Then when you go back to lifting around 10 reps, you will be able to do ten reps but with more weight than you could before.



      What rep scheme should you follow? Feel free to look around for powerlifting routines to figure out which one you should follow. I like to do 5x5 for four weeks, 3x3 for two weeks and 2x2 for two weeks. That entire progression takes two months. Afterwards if I am interested, I will do a one rep max test to see how much I have progressed. Although sometimes I just switch back up to a bodybuilding style rep scheme focusing on 8-12 reps.

      Whatever scheme you choose, the important thing to do is change things up for a little while to break that plateau. A word of caution, that does not mean do random exercise from week to week with no planned progression. A method many people call muscle confusion will not help getting stronger at specific lifts. For most athletes that are looking for hypertrophy, I recommend this technique once or twice a year. This allows for strength progression while spending the majority of your time focused on the 8-12 rep range.

      Another benefit of this plan is crushing some big weights in front of New Year’s Resolutions can help you feel even stronger. After all if you have been working hard all year, this is a good chance to show off your dedication.

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Why Do New Year�??s Resolutions Fail?

Posted by Strength & Speed on January 3, 2017 at 9:55 AM

     While everyone talks about New Year’s resolutions in January, it is rare to meet someone still referencing them in June. I also do not recall ever meeting someone in December who is like “I did it, I accomplished my New Year’s Resolution.” Although I have not done any deep analysis, based off empirical data, I think most New Year’s resolutions fail (and so do most media websites who cite questionable data), and here is why I think that is….



     I think the main problem with New Year’s resolutions is people try to make a change based off a calendar day. Why make the resolution on 1 January. Why not make it tomorrow or on 7 April? 1 January is really just an arbitrary date that is no different from any other day of the year. If something is important enough for you to make a change, then change. Waiting for a specific date will not suddenly magically give you more discipline or more will power.

     Furthermore, most New Year’s resolutions involve drastic changes, which are often difficult to maintain and are usually unrealistic. So instead of saying “I am only going to drink alcohol once every two weeks” people say “I am done drinking alcohol period.” Try instead making a small change and also be sure it is specific. Instead of just saying I am going to eat healthy use a specific mark so you can tell if you achieved your goal or failed. For example, I am only going to order French fries with my meal once per week. This is specific and can be tracked. This is realistic if you are eating fries two or three times a week. If you are currently eating them seven times a week, you may want to set a smaller goal or one that gets more difficult with time. For example, January only eat fries six times a week, February & March five times a week and progressively lower.



     This is easier said than done and it takes some discipline. How do people have the discipline to change, it is a simple matter of priorities. Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most. So if losing that weight by the end of the month is more important than eating that extra piece of cake, then you should be able to rationally weigh your options to make a decision.

     One of my friends quit smoking a couple of years ago not by making a New Years resolution but because he got up one day and said “That’s it I’m done.” He threw away his cigarettes and changed immediately. If you are waiting for a day on the calendar to make a change, then you probably do not want it bad enough to actually change. So, instead of making a New Year’s resolution make a lifestyle change and start now, not tomorrow.

 

The Best & Worst Fitness Advice in One Statement

Posted by Strength & Speed on November 21, 2016 at 10:45 AM

I have a piece of fitness advice that is simultaneously the best and worse advice I can give out. I use this principal almost all the time, knowing it is not the correct book answer. I also rarely tell people about it because I do not want to be the source of a debilitating injury. So what is this magically awesome and terrible piece of advice?

Train through everything.

Yeah, that is right. Train through all your injuries, aches and pains. I have been using this advice for about 15 years. Anytime something hurts…I just pretend it does not and keep training. This has resulted in 15 years of being basically injury free. This includes powerlifting, marathons, bodybuilding, ultra-marathons, OCR and backpacking. Sure I occasionally have problems, but I have never had to take more than a couple of unscheduled days off from training in the last decade and a half. Before you close your computer and go running out the door on your broken leg, this advice does come with some caveats. So take an extra two minutes and finish reading the rest of the article.

Caveat 1: If you are seriously injured, do not train through it. As in you are in a cast, you can no longer walk or there is visible swelling/bruising. However, that does not mean you have to stop working out. In 2002 I broke my wrist after falling off a friend’s shoulder and had my arm in a cast. I obviously stopped lifting weights for that arm but I continued to run, backpack, do sit-ups and lots of one armed pushups (Side note: I actually got really good at them after doing so many for several weeks). To this day my patella tendon hurts sometimes. A couple of years ago it was so bad it caused me to limp for the first mile of a run, but it would go away before mile two. One of the generally accepted rules is, “If it causes you to change form, then you are injured and not just aching.” As it turns out, the pain was/is caused by tight muscles surrounding the tendon pulling on it. Had I not trained through it, I would have never known that.

Caveat 2: If something is wrong, you can take a couple of days off to let it heal. This is really just echoing the sentiments in the above paragraph. I have hurt my back deadlifting before my form got much better. I took a couple of days off and let that heal. I have severely bruised my toe trail running and had it swell to the point I could barely walk. I took a couple of days off, did the standard RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation plus a couple of ibuprofen pill) and kept training.

Caveat 3: If a certain exercise is causing you joint pain, find a different one that works the same muscles without the pain. I have had tendinitis in my elbow for months where every time I did free weight curls it caused me pain. I just switched to machines, pulleys and some free weight bicep movements that did not cause pain for a couple of months….it went away. I have had my knee make funny sounds and cause pain on some leg press machines. I stopped using those machines but still did squats. I have had my shoulder joints ache horribly after doing kipping pull-ups as part of a competition…I switched back to regular pull-ups in a controlled manner. No pain. Basically, you can find a work around for most joint or tendon pain.

Bottom line is I think most people feel some joint pain, get worried about it developing into a worse injury and end up not reaching their potential. This is the first time I have ever stated my “Train through everything” philosophy publicly and I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s injury, so approach with caution. The saying of “do as I say, not as I do” may be spot on in this case. So take this piece of advice and do as you will with it. I have my plan laid out.

 

When Four Minutes is Enough

Posted by Strength & Speed on August 26, 2016 at 9:50 PM

In today’s fitness world we seem to have a plethora ofoptions. Recently circuit training has come back into the main stream largely due to, in my opinion, the popularity of CrossFit (see my previous article formy take on CrossFit). But out of this resurgence has come a variety of choices from the all-out never ending WOD, to your various High Intensity IntervalTraining (HIIT) classes offered at many gyms across the country to this weird class called Tabata. No, Tabata is not the newest craze dance class like the name may imply. Even though the classes in your local gym may be somewhat new, the Tabata workout was actually created in 1996 by a Japanese physician andresearcher by the name of Dr. Izumi Tabata as a way to increase the maximum volume of oxygen (VO2 max) for Japan’s top speed skaters.


I know you are all saying “Well that’s neat. Why do I care?”  Well because your local gym, and the one I work at are doing it wrong! You see Dr. Tabata’s initial protocol and workout called for only 4 minutes. It’s hard to sell a class for only 4 minutes of work. So the fitness industry took Dr.Tabata’s idea, watered it down some and poof a workout for the masses. Now I am not saying the class at your local gym isn’t any good,  anything that doesn’t pose an elevated risk of injury and can get you up and moving is good. However, my OCD doesn’t like mutant forms of anything, much less a mutated workout (except for X-men and Ninja Turtles those are cool mutants).


So what does the “real” Tabata look like, well it is similar to your class in that it is 20 seconds of work with 10 seconds of rest, however, the kicker is in the intensity. In your class I am assuming the instructor istelling everyone to push hard and really work. But knowing everyone still has another 20 minutes of class left psychologically you are going to leave some fuel in the tank for the rest of the class. In Dr. Tabata's study he found that if the athlete works at 170% of their VO2 max for 20 seconds then rests for 10 seconds after only 8 rounds (4 minutes), this will illicit an increase in VO2 max. Like any workout this is not a one and done fix, Dr. Tabata’s study took place over 6 weeks having the participants perform the exercise multiple times per week. So if the 170% of VO2 maxmight as well be a foreign language to you here is an easier way to figure theintensity. Take 220-your age to find your maximum heart rate (roughly) this is not as fast as your heart can beat it is just a rough estimate that it is asfast as your heart will/should beat during strenuous activity. Now take 120% of that number.  Using myself as an example 220-31=189x120%= 226 is the heartrate I need to achieve. Now most people will say that is very high, which it is…that’s the point. That is also why this workout is only 4 minutes long. That level of intensity is near impossible to draw out for an extended period of time. In the simplest way to explain it, this workout forces your body to work harder and faster than it is able to pump oxygen through your body. So even though you are breathing you are still not getting oxygen to your muscles, thus forcing your body to adapt. The Tabata workout should be made of up primarily total body multi-joint movements, here is an example that I gave to one of myathletes: Sandbag squats, dumb bell cleans, mountain climbers, push-ups,burpees, jump squat, jump lunge, squats. Notice the progression from legs to arms incorporating the entire body then going back to legs, these are all big multi-joint movements with elements of speed and explosion that tax the system much greater than other exercise choices.


Now I understand that to Jane and John gym member this may be alittle intense. This is true, as I stated in the beginning, this work out was designed for top level international caliber athletes. As a trainer I havebegun to implement this on a couple of my clients. Both of which are endurance athletes, whom are accustomed to longer duration workouts.  So when they saw a4-minute workout there was some initial kickback, which only makes sense.  However, after they were not asking me to extend any form of the workout.


For the everyday person intense intervals have been shown to have a longer lasting effect on fat burning post workout and encourage the body to retain muscle as opposed to longer duration steady state cardio which can cause the body to use muscle as fuel. So for the gym goer looking to lose fat while keeping that oh so important fat burning muscle, I recommend inserting some type of interval into your cardio regimen. For the athlete, intervals are paramount to keeping your body a well-rounded machine tobe ready for everything tha is asked of it during your sport. Finally, for the OCRathlete I feel as if this can be a very useful tool to help get you over whatever hump or plateau you may be facing.  The intense nature of this workout with laughable time to rest between sets forces you to push beyond what you thought was possible. So please when you see the short 4-minute workout, be weary, because it may be the best/worst 4-minute workout you have done.

(top picture from Active.com, bottom picture from huffingtonpost.com)

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Jared Renyer

Jared has a B.S. in Fitness & Wellness, as well as acertified personal trainer. As a college athlete he played soccer as well asran track. In recent years Jared has started competing in OCR events and hasbecome one of the strongest members of Team Strength&Speed and qualifiedfor and will be competing in the 30-34 age group for the 2016 OCR WorldChampionships.

 

Why you should dress like a A**hole in the gym

Posted by Strength & Speed on August 15, 2016 at 11:25 AM

      I typically roll into the gym with a sleeveless shirt, shorts, a hat, headphones in my ears and carrying my gym bag with random accessories. While I think I sport a good enough physique today that warrants a sleeveless shirt, 8 years ago (maybe less), I did not. However, I still encourage dressing the way you want when you go to the gym, because it is your time to work out and who cares what other people think.

     There is a term called the Observer Effect or the Hawthorne Effect. The quick explanation is that when subjects are being watched and they know it, it influences their behavior. The name stems from observers watching workers in Hawthorne Works, a factory in Illinois, and adjusting the lighting conditions to figure out if which provided the maximum level of productivity. Despite lowering lighting, productivity improved, but they ultimately concluded it was a result of being watched and had nothing to do with the lighting.

      If you want to wear a sleeveless shirt eve if your small tank top looks like it is two sizes two big, I say go for it! Everyone has to start somewhere, the fact that you are in the gym working to improve yourself says something. If you are familiar with the story of Arnold Schwarzenegger working on lagging calves, this falls into the same concept. The brief synopsis is Arnold felt his calves were lagging so cut off his sweatpants so his calves were always exposed. This ensured he always worked on his weakness.

     This observer effect can be used to your benefit in the gym. If I know people are watching me in the gym I subconsciously try harder. You may have noticed this effect if you have ever asked a friend to video tape you during a lift. While you do not have to dress like an asshole, dress how you want when you head to the gym and if other people stare, than it will probably only help you out. The same effect can be seen when males are lifting around attractive females (see “The Yoga Pants Efect”;).


 

Live A Little

Posted by Strength & Speed on August 1, 2016 at 8:45 AM

     “Live a little”, I despise the phrase. It is uttered by people with no ability to plan to put in hard work for a long term goal. It is thrown at me on a monthly basis, sometimes even more. “Here have some .” It varies each time I am offered an unhealthy drink/food, sometimes being as simple as a slice of pizza, other times some dessert, all the way to alcohol or cigars. Sometimes it is an invitation to stay out an extra couple of hours at a social event. After a polite decline to their offer, their inevitable response is “Come on live a little.”

     But my response is the same, “I agree…you live a little.” Instead of wasting your time getting drunk every night and slamming down XL pies from Dominos, you live a little. Set a goal that takes more than 10 minutes to achieve and cannot just be purchased. Work hard for something that requires months or years of successive effort. After a half decade of drinking, partying and eating crappy foods what will they have to show for all their living? An extra 10 lbs? Health problems? A bunch of memories that are blurred by the haze of alcohol? Store purchased items that hold little or no intrinsic value?

     What they fail to understand is that I am living a little, actually that is not right, I am living a lot. The only difference is the ability to delay gratification. By suffering during training I get my prize when I cross that finish line on race day. Sometimes the finish line comes in the form of a high placing but other times it is just performing at a level above what I thought was physically capable. Pleasurable experiences that require no work and can be repeated easily, will quickly lose their level of excitement. Compare that to something that you work hard for that takes months and is very difficult. The contrast and level of enjoyment with the end results can be extreme.

    My living also comes in the form of my projects including Strength & Speed, my articles for Mud Run Guide and my book (soon to be books) on OCR. My living comes in the form of spending time with my family and going on family trips. My living comes in the form of being successful at my job. My living comes in the form of being able to balance all of those things and still be an athlete. So I say again, “You live a little.”

    I understand why people do all those things (drink, smoke, party, eat unhealthy), they are just not for me at this point in my life. Just as I understand why they may not want to train for four months to set a new marathon PR or finish an ultra-Obstacle Course Race. However, every time I see them drinking I do not tell them to live a little and give them a speech on how they are wasting their life not enjoying things. Let’s try to show some respect in the other direction.

 

Father's Day

Posted by Strength & Speed on June 16, 2016 at 11:45 AM

     I am going to take the opportunity on this Father’s Day to share a personal story and highlight some things. I will start with my dad pit crewing for me at the Brazos Bend 100 mile trail race. 

      During my first 100 miler, my dad was my only member of my pit crew. After running the first 75 miles with relative ease, things started going poorly. I finished the first 75 miles in 14 hours with a mix of run/walk the entire time. I was pretty confident I would hit 100 in under 20 hrs based off my last 25 mile split. Around mile 78 my body did not feel like running anymore, weird I thought, I’ll just walk it out for a little longer than planned and then start running again. Nope, my internal hip muscles basically had hit complete muscle failure. At around mile 80 I told my dad, who a planning on taking a nap while waiting for me to finish, that I needed a pacer.

     My dad in his late 60s proceeded to join me and the trail and begin walking. For the next 8 hours he had to listen to me suffer with each step. Out of all the races I have participated in, I have never been in this bad of a condition. Maybe it was because it was my first 100 miler or maybe because I had just done World’s Toughest Mudder four weeks prior and still was not recovered. Either way, I was in bad shape. In the end, my father continued to pace me often having to slow down because my rate of movement was so slow. I literally made groaning, suffering, whiney noises for the next 8 hours until the race ended.

      After about an hour of walking he asked me if I wanted to stop. I responded with a clear no and that was the last time he brought up the topic. He later told my mom “I should have made him stop”. He seemed to regret the decision not to stop me even more when I had to be wheeled around the airport later that day to make my flight.  I later told him that I had to walk backwards for two days due to my muscles that create forward movement being destroyed, which didn't help his regret. Several days later I was back to normal with no permanent damage but with a shiny new 100 miler belt buckle. Was it the right decision not to ask me to quit again? That is up for debate, but regardless of what he said or did it probably would have ended with me continuing to walk towards the finish line.

     The ability or willingness to pace your child through the night does not make you a good parent, but this is a representation of a lifetime of good parenting. I think good parenting comes from a mix of pushing your child when they need it and giving good advice. However, the most important part, even if your advice is not always perfect, is simply being there. I am lucky to have a father that is always there for me as demonstrated by this one example. As my child grows up, I hope that I can be as good of a father to mine as he was to me.

     Whether your father is always there for you or not, whether you are always for there for your children or unavailable, always work on improving the relationship. I know I will. Happy Father’s Day to everyone!


 

Time to Give Pro Wrestling a 2nd Chance

Posted by Strength & Speed on May 17, 2016 at 11:50 AM

     Alright, total honesty time. I sometimes watch professional wrestling. I know there is a WWE following as demonstrated by the media giant they have become but I know very few adults who openly admit to it. While you will not catch me religiously watching every episode I like to catch Wrestlemania and one or two pay-per-view events a year.

     I know many people who say “The matches are fixed” or “it is all fake, so what is the point?” Movies are both of those but I do not know anyone who is vehemently opposed to watching movies? Reality TV is also largely scripted but that still sells. So why does wrestling get judged differently? Is it because at one point you thought it was real? Do not deny it…I do not know anyone growing up who immediately identified it as fake. Maybe it is different today with the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), but when I grew up it seemed real to me.



      Why should you give it a second chance? In the two decades since I stopped watching, a lot has changed. There is still some cheesy acting, over the top promos, less than realistic punches and competitors letting their opponents get them into positions that seem preposterous but there is also a lot more. Some of these guys are ridiculous athletes. Reference the strength of Ryback or Mark Henry. Feel free to cite the Olympic Gold Medal won by Kurt Angle or the UFC Championship belt won by Brock Lesnar. Have you seen the high flying tricks of Neville or the Rey Mysterio?



      As someone who runs a small business with no formal training in marketing, watching the WWE grow is simply fascinating study. They went from a couple of pay-per-view events every year to one every month. Plus, they now have two primetime several hour wrestling shows (RAW and Smackdown), plus a Saturday morning NXT wrestling show highlighting new wrestlers. But it gets better, they have their characters integrated into cartoons with the Flintstones, fighting games plus he standard action figures they had when I was growing up. They even expanded into reality shows with Total Divas, attempting to pull in more female fans. If that is not enough they launched their own network so you could literally spend all day watching wrestling and wrestling related programs. I am literally amazed.



     This article has two points. The first is I think making fun of wrestling fans is like making fun of someone for liking movies. They have really done an amazing job in the last two decades, so you may want to check it out before you cite old Ultimate Warrior promos as evidence of bad acting. Second, make sure you check out my favorite wrestler, the Greatest Unsigned Talent Today, The Greek God Papadon (also one of my relatives) https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009406984243 ;. While not a member of the WWE wrestling staff, he has been on the show once and was in he movie The Wrestler. Check out his Facebook page, which says when his next match is and tell WWE to miss the only business decision they have failed to see so far (signing The Greek God).