Strength & Speed

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S&S Articles

Star Wars Anti-Fitness: Porkins

Posted by Strength & Speed on May 4, 2017 at 7:00 AM

     Last year we covered Inspirational Star Wars quotes on May the Fourth.  Since we used up most of the good quotes last year, this seems like a perfect opportunity to go in the opposite direction.  Here are my favorite pictures and memes from fatest human in the Star Wars Galaxy, Jek Porkins.  Enjoy!

Book Review Comparisson: Mental Training

Posted by Strength & Speed on March 15, 2017 at 4:05 PM

                If you have not looked into the value of adding some mental training to your repertoire you are missing out on achieving your peak performance.  I covered a little bit of the importance ofmental training in my book “Strength & Speed’s Guide to Elite ObstacleCourse Racing” but there are so many topics to cover, I could not cover mentaltraining in depth.  To truly understandall the benefits it really requires a book focused on just mental training.

                I recently picked up Matt Fitzgerald’s book “How Bad Do You Want it” and wasblown away with how great his book was. He provides real life scenarios of top level athletes using the power oftheir mind to unlock their full potential. He takes examples of athletes like cycling’s Thomas Voeckler, GregLemond and Cadel Evans explaining how they could summon super-humanperformances when the conditions were right. Add in some running examples of Sammy Wanjiru, Jenny Simpson and StevePrefontaine and you have an all-star line up of truly amazing stories. 

                I personally thought it was the best book on mental training that I have read sofar.  It is definitely something I planon reading again as I get ready for major competitions.  The stories included in the book and thescience that supports them will help you create your own stories of greatness.    

               His book was go good, I wanted toread more on unlocking my personal mental potential and immediately picked upanother book called “The Champion’s Mind” by Jim Afremow.  With such high expectations, I wasimmediately disappointed.  MattFitzgerald is heavily involved in both competing in running/triathlons and anexperienced journalist.  His bookreflects that.  Jim’s background is inpsychology and his book reflects that.  Althoughhe works with athletes, he is not a high level athlete himself unlikeMatt.  Matt understands the importance ofthings like reserving mental strength for races , periodization, trainingcycles, peaking and the importance of rest. I felt like Jim’s book did not reflect that as well focusing more onjust doing your best every day.  In reallife when you give 100% everyday, that leads to burnout, injury and loss inmotivation.  Unlike Matt’s book, I won’tbe reading Jim’s book again.

              Matt used real life examples andJim’s book is filled with fictional stories that don’t necessarily translateinto real life.  Bottom line is if youare looking to pick up a good book on mental training, buy How Bad Do You WantIt”.  “The Champion’s Mind” fell short ofexpectations. 


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.

Book Review: Shoe Dog by Phil Knight

Posted by Strength & Speed on February 15, 2017 at 3:00 PM

                Idecided to pick up Phil Knight’s book ShoeDog, about the founding and history of one of Nike.  Today, Nike is viewed as a giant in the shoeand athletic clothing industry.  However,they were not always like this.  Afterreading this book, it gave me a whole new perspective on Nike and how difficultit can be to start a business. 

                ShoeDog takes a look at Nike focusing on the early days and follows through all theway up to modern day.  The later years ofthe story are mostly glossed over, but the early years are very in depth.  Hearing how they struggled to make ends meet,took large risks and were almost sued out of existence in their early daysreally gives you a new view of the company. Their persistence and innovation revolutionized the running industrydespite several points in the story where their existence seemed like it wasdestined to fail. 

                Thebook is also filled with a ton of stories that are just interesting to hearincluding stories about the legend Steve Prefontaine, how Nike came up withtheir name and Bill Bowerman’s historic waffle design on the bottom of Nike’sshoes.  While Nike is sometimescriticized today because they are often viewed as “the man” or “a superpower”when it comes to the athletic world, just like every other company they startedout very small (as Blue Ribbon Sports). 

                Ireally enjoyed hearing the backstory associated with Nike.  While obviously written from a biasedperspective (owner Phil Knight is the author), in my opinion he still sharedsome stories that does not paint Nike in the best light.  However, he explained his side of the storyand how he saw the situation at the time. If you are a fan of Nike, a fan of running or just someone who likes toread about the backside of the athletic industry, this would be a good book toadd to your reading list. 


Book Review: Out There

Posted by Strength & Speed on July 15, 2016 at 10:40 AM

       Out There: A Story of Ultra Recoveryby David Clark was my recent ultra-distance audiobook I finished. I often like to choose my audiobooks based on training focus because I think it helps me get in that appropriate mindset. So if I plan on doing a lot of endurance work, I will listen to books about ultra-running, if I am in a strength building phase I will listen to books by other trainers and if I am dieting for a bodybuilding show, I will listen to nutritional books to reinforce my dietary behavior.

     Out There was entertaining but it did not speak to me. I can see how a lot of people would love this book because it is the underdog type story. The author, David Clark, was an alcoholic for years effecting everything from his personal to professional life. Although he actually seemed to hold things down pretty good considering how much he was drinking. He eventually (much later than I thought), finds ultra-running and replaces one addiction for another.

     This definitely speaks to anyone trying to stop their addiction (I avoid using the term battling, because I think it is ridiculous to use the term battle when you are fighting yourself). However, I have never had an addiction problem like drugs or alcohol so I had trouble relating to the main character for large parts of the book. For a while it seemed like he was going to run an ultra or two and then call it a “career” but he eventually gets to what I would consider an impressive level.

     Overall, it was a good book, not something I would run around recommending to people unless you are interested in addiction or ultra-running, which should not be surprising. Pick it up if you are looking for something to listen to while training for your next ultra or bypass if you have not read some of the other ultra-books I recommended.


Star Wars Fitness Inspirational Quotes: Part II

Posted by Strength & Speed on May 4, 2016 at 6:45 AM

     If you missed part I, head back and check it out now. We continue with the May the 4th celebration with nine more fitness related Star War quotes.

10. “If you strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” –Obi Wan Kenobi

Your path to success will have a ton of ups and downs along the way. Although if you die, you are not going to come back as a force powered ghost, this quote does apply to any setbacks you have. If you go through life without failing you will never know what you have to fix to become better. So although no one likes to fail, it is necessary to improve because it helps expose your areas that need improvement.

11. “Control, control, you must learn control.” –Yoda

Whether you are trying to gain muscle, lose fat, lift more weight or become faster, control is important. It could be saying no to that extra piece of cake or simply getting out of bed in the morning to workout. Improving physically is all about control. Dedication is all about going after your goals long after that inspirational moment has passed.

12. “I’m not afraid.” –Luke Skywalker “You will be…you will be.” -Yoda

If getting a training schedule from a personal trainer or book, you should have the opinion of Luke initially and the trainer should have the opinion of Yoda. If you have a training schedule laid out then and nothing in it makes you a little nervous, it is probably not hard enough. The challenging workout, which should be a little scary, is what will produce physical change to help you achieve your objectives.

13. “Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” -Yoda

If you are an athlete that is dedicated to competing on a fair playing field without using performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), this is a quote for you. While PEDs are not addicting like other drugs, it is a path to the “dark side”. If you are a serious athlete and considering using PEDs, it will “dominate your destiny.” Like powerlifter Mark Bell said, “I’m not going to go from squatting 800 lbs. to squatting 700 lbs.” While not physically addicting, they will be mentally addicting and start you down a “dark path.”

14. “Your powers are weak old man.” –Darth Vader

Despite Darth Vader having a great quote in the last (“I find your lack of faith disturbing”), his quote on this list is underestimating Obi Wan. Like many people, they use age as an excuse for lack of effort. While your age does make it harder to make physical improvements, most people us this as an excuse instead of just adjusting their training.

15. “Size matters not. Judge me by my size do you.” –Yoda

This quote is pertinent to both big and small athletes. Just because someone is small does not mean they are not strong. Likewise just because someone is big does not necessarily mean they are strong. Bottom line is it is not the size of the athlete but often a combination of numerous factors including training, diet, willingness to suffer and motivation.

16. “You don’t want to sell me death sticks. You want to go home and rethink your life.” –Obi Wan Kenobi

This one is for those that are taking those first steps towards a healthy lifestyle. The first step of physical improvement might be something as obvious as stopping smoking.

17. “Remember concentrate on the moment. Feel, don’t think, use your instincts” –Qui Gon Jin

While during training it is often better to dissociate while running, during competition or performance focusing on your body will yield better results. By focusing on your breathing and how you are feeling at the moment, you can enhance your performance. I usually am hyper focused during a marathon but during those last couple of miles I run by feel and try to empty the tank in order to get everything out of my body that I can for the best time.

18. “Surely you can do better” –Count Dooku

While the line is initially meant as a taunt, it is also a truth. Whenever you think you have done your best, look inside and think if you can do better. Sure it only might be by a couple of seconds or a couple of pounds, but you usually have more in you. Even if that was you best at the time, proper training can result in another leap forward in performance.


That concludes Strength & Speed’s 18 Star Wars fitness quotes. Keep training hard and May the Fourth be with you.


Star Wars Inspirational Quotes: Part I

Posted by Strength & Speed on May 3, 2016 at 6:35 AM

     In honor of May the 4th (May the 4th be with you), I figured I would do a couple of posts about Star Wars and fitness. Although Star Wars is typically not seen as a movie where its characters emphasize physical fitness, they do have some profound quotes. These quotes can provide you with a lot of lessons for physical improvements. Let’s start with the most obvious one so we can get it out of the way:

1. “Do or do not, there is not try.” - Yoda

The point of this quote is believing in yourself. If you go into an event whether it be a 5k, 5 miler, 50k or 50 miler with the belief that you will complete it, your likelihood of success will increase dramatically. Willpower is an incredible tool for athletes and Yoda knows the power of it, which is why he provides this sage advice to Luke.

2. “Never tell me the odds.” -Han Solo

Just like Yoda, Han’s quote is about willpower. When trying to achieve a goal, if you sat down and looked at the odds of achieving that goal it could seem depressing or make it impossible. Han did not want to know the odd of navigating an asteroid field (3720 to 1) and you should not concern yourself with the odds of wanting to achieve your goals if you are serious about putting in the work required to reach that level.

3. “In my experience, there is no such thing as luck.” –Obi Wan Kenobi

This is probably my favorite Star Wars quote that links to fitness. When people say things, “Why can’t I be that lucky” or “Best of luck in your race tomorrow”, it is not about luck. Luck is the product of tons of hard work and putting yourself in the right circumstances. This appears to luck like outsiders but is actually an accumulation of hard work via training, diet and effort. If you are waiting for your “lucky break”, you will be waiting a long time. Instead, make your own luck to achieve your goals.

4. “There’s always a bigger fish.” –Qui Gon Jinn

This quote is about remaining humble. Whether you are the strongest/fastest in your state, in your town, on your block or just in your household, always keep some humility. There is always someone stronger or faster than you just like there is always someone slower or weaker than you trying to reach your level.

5. “Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” –Han Solo

Despite Han being a force non-believer at first and a scruffy looking nerf herder, he continues to reinforce profound quotes from elsewhere in the Star Wars universe. After Luke destroys a Tie Fighter and is proud of his accomplishment, Han hits him with this gem. Just like the quote from Qui Gon, remain humble even during your periods of success.

6. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” –Darth Vader

When you set goals and go after them there will be naysayers. Whether your goal involves losing 10 lbs, running 10 miles, losing 100 lbs or running 100 miles, you will run into people who think your goal is impossible. Do not let these negative thoughts and beliefs determine if you can actually achieve your goals, which leads us to…

7. “Your focus determines your reality.” –Qui Gon Jinn

Qui Gon again provides some good wisdom with this quote. If you are focused, it is amazing what results you can achieve. Positive belief combined with focus will help determine your ability to reach new goals.

8. “Stay on target.”

Even the random Rebel Alliance X Wing pilot understands the power of focus. Luke is trying to destroy the Death Star with Tie Fighters on his tail shooting at him while speeding through a trench with laser guns and other objects. Despite all that is going on, the rebel pilot tells look to “Stay on Target”. As you go for your goals, your journey is going to look a lot more like a trench run then an uphill climb. Things will be going wrong frequently, there will be obstacles in your way and it may seem impossible at times, but having a focus can help you reach that exhaust port.

9. “I don’t believe it” –Luke Skywalker “That is why you fail.” –Yoda

Yoda started the list and finishes off the list with another pearl of wisdom. Yoda’s response to Luke drives home the strength of willpower and positive thought. Just like when going for a new PR in a lift, if you do not believe, you will fail before you even step up to the bar.

Check back for part II and May the force (fourth) be with you.


Book Review: Hell on Two Wheels

Posted by Strength & Speed on April 2, 2016 at 11:35 AM

      I often listen to Audiobooks when I run via the website Audible Free Trial [Digital Membership]. I recommend doing this if you are an endurance athlete working on long slow distance training. It is makes running twice as efficient because you are learning while working out. If you have not doubled down on your efficiency by listening to getting an Audible subscription, I recommend doing so now via this link. 

     Anyway, I just finished Hell on Two Wheels: An Astonishing Story of Suffering, Triumph, and the Most Extreme Endurance Race in the Worldby Amy Snyder. The book takes you into the world of ultra-cycling by telling the story of the 2009 Race Across America (RAAM). The book did a great job of introducing you to character and adding depth to their stories prior to discussing how the race played out. I will not spoil the ending for you, but it does provide an interesting end to a 3000 mile race, which usually end with top finisher nowhere close to each other. 

      It also helped me confirm that I have absolutely no desire to do ultra-cycling events. (My first Ironman convinced me of that actually, but this just helped confirm it.) For me the thought of sitting on my bike all day for multiple days in a row sounds like torture. The neck and back pain must be excruciating. Add in things like saddle sores and how sensitive your underside must feel. Although the terrain is not as treacherous as the Tour De France, the conditions more than make up for it. Since it is a non-stop running clock, racers typically go with little sleep and pedal through large portions of the night. Something which is dangerous not only due to oncoming cars but also due to falling asleep on your back and veering off the road (or into oncoming traffic). Add in hallucinations caused by sleep deprivation and it is a recipe for disaster. A very impressive feat for anyone that completes this absurd race.

      As someone who competes in ultra-distance events, she did a great job with the book, but it is impossible to really capture the meaning of these events or the feelings felt by the participants. Overall, I thought she did a really good job and it definitely opened my eyes up wider to the world of ultra-cycling. If you are an ultra-athlete, ultra-cyclist or just curious to hear stories of people willing to give it all to make it to the finish line, then check out Hell on Two Wheels.


Movie Review: The Program

Posted by Strength & Speed on March 2, 2016 at 12:20 AM

      I was able to catch an advanced screening of the upcoming Lance Armstrong movie “The Program”. I actually had not seen any previews prior to the movie so I was not sure what to expect. As someone who has read almost every book on the topic of Lance’s journey and watched almost every documentary, I had low expectations. I figured this would be a dramatized Hollywood version of events that only painted him in one light (most likely a cheater).

      What I did not expect was a well-balanced version of the events of the last 20+ years surrounding Lance Armstrong’s life. The movie is based on the book by David Walsh Seven Deadly Sins: My Pursuit of Lance Armstrong.The movie did a fantastic job covering the topic and managed to cram in most of the major events without completely glossing over anything or requiring it to be a three hour movie. What I thought was most interesting was that almost every scene in the movie I have read firsthand accounts of from other books. 

      I thought the movie did a good job highlighting the many aspects of the complex world of professional cycling. Instead of just saying he cheated, they highlighted the widespread prevalence of doping across the peloton. Instead of just highlighting the wrong he did, they also showed the positive things he did to benefit cancer patients, cancer research and how he inspired Americans to get on their bikes to become active. The movie takes you through a range of emotions towards Lance. There are times when you will feel bad for him, times when you are amazed by his actions (in both good and bad ways) and times when you will hate him. Just like the real world, things are complex and The Program does a good job highlighting those complexities.

      The casting was amazing. There were times when I thought I was actually watching close ups of Lance Armstrong and not actor Ben Foster. Ben Foster had everything down including his mannerisms, facial expressions and grimaces on the bike. The movie also interspersed actual clips from the Tour De France including media broadcasts and footage of the actual Lance cycling. I was happy they did not try to recreate all of the cycling scenes from scratch because it would be unnecessary since they are already captured on film. The rest of the actors were just as good with all of them bearing a strong physical resemblance the people they portray. From Michele Ferrari to Floyd Landis, the casting was outstanding. I do not think the Oscars give a casting award, but they need to start one and then give it to this movie.

      I could see some people complaining because they cover so much information over the course of the movie, but in order to get the full story you need to touch on so many different time periods over the two decades the story occurs. This could make the story seem choppy to some because it rarely stays in the same month for two scenes in a row, but if you want this to be a movie there is no other way to write the screenplay. I do not think there is a need to make another non-documentary Lance movie because this one hit the nail on the head. Although, if Hollywood ever wanted to keep cashing in on his story, a mini-series would be a great option to get into some of the details that were only lightly covered.

      Overall, I think it is a great movie if the story of Lance Armstrong interests you or you are a cycling fan. Even non-cycling athletes will find the glimpses into the psyche of a man willing to win at all costs fascinating. If you follow Strength & Speed, and since you are reading this I assume you do, then I think you will enjoy this movie whether you are a Lance lover or a Lance hater.



     If you want to read more about my opinion of other Lance books or movies check the Reviews section and if you want to read about my opinion of Lance possibly entering Obstacle Course Races do not miss my associated article/poll "Bring in the Cheaters":

Book Review: The Ultra MIndset

Posted by Strength & Speed on February 2, 2016 at 9:35 AM


      The Ultra Mindset: An Endurance Champion's 8 Core Principles for Success in Business, Sports, and Life s probably my favorite ultra-running book I have read this year (I also read Out There, Natural Born Heroes, Eat and Run, Finding Ultra, Hal Koerner’s Guide to Ultra Running). Eat and Run or Finding Ultra probably would have beaten The Ultra Mindset but I just could not get over Scott Jurek and Rich Roll’s vegan preaching. Both of their books are very good but were too vegetarian and vegan focused for me. Although both have had success with those diets in the ultra-world there are also plenty of non-vegan/vegetarian athletes that win races every weekend. But I digresss…

     The Ultra Mindset was great because it was personal stories mixed in with little statement you could hold on to and think about while training. What was cool was there were aspects that not only applied to ultra-running but could be used to for anything in life. Really this is a goal setting book that uses ultra-running as a basis for setting your goals. So just because you do not plan to go out and sign up for a 50k or 100 miler this year, it can still teach you some valuable lessons if your big goal for the year is a marathon, completing your first Obstacle Course Race or just a 5k.

     Having a strong mind is so important in the ultra-racing world, that I am glad someone decided to focus an entire book on the topic. If you do not believe me on the importance of mindset, just listen to Matt B. Davis’ podcast talking to World’s Toughest Mudder athletes both pre and mid/post race.

Obstacle Racing Media WTM Part I

Obstacle Racing Media WTM Part II

     Despite many athletes physically have the ability to continue, many called it early, gave up or came up with excuses to bow out of the race. They were not at their physical limits but certainly had reached their mental limits based off training and race conditions.

     Overall I really enjoyed the Ultra Mindset. The personal stories were cool and interesting adding depth to the principles he was trying to convey. The advice was sound as demonstrated by his success in the ultra-world. Finally, the book was great to listen to during some long slow distance training. Using my Audible subscription, which means I know own a digital copy of the audiobook, I plan on downloading this again in the future for another listen.