Monthly Archives: October 2011

Set a date.

My friend Jacob Tsypkin and I were discussing various topics last week over a couple of expertly cut and grilled steaks. How to best combine strength training with conditioning, the good and bad of traditional Crossfit programming, and the difference between exercising for health and training to achieve a set goal were all on the table. Naturally, these various topics condensed down to how to best train for and survive the inevitable zombie apocalypse.

One thing that we both agreed on was that for someone who starts out as inactive, weak, and out of condition, there is nothing that can be done to prepare them for the onslaught of the undead in a month or two. The only thing that can shift things in their favor is plenty of luck, guns, and ammo.

I believe that since no one can prepare for the zombies overnight, it only makes sense to set a date. Set a date a reasonable distance away from your starting date. Make it your goal to be as ready for the zombies as you can possibly be at that set date. I think 6 months is a reasonable time period. The zombies have not come for thousands of years, the next 6 months seems like a reasonable bet for the continuation of modern society.

Although the ideal preparation might differ person to person, let’s concentrate on the previously mentioned inactive person. A guy who has spent too much time on the sofa or at a desk. Little history of physical activity. Weak and out of condition. How do you get this guy as close to a Ving Rhames level zombie fighter as possible in 6 months?

I would suggest concentrating on strength first. Strength is the basis for all other physical qualities, can only be built quickly in the absence of significant conditioning, and an increase in strength will in and of itself improve all other physical qualities in untrained people. Quick, linear gains in strength can be maintained for at least 8 weeks for most people who train correctly. So for 2 of your 6 months, do a reasonable linear progression beginner strength program, resist the urge to condition, and eat properly to gain strength.

Since the lions share of quick and easy linear strength gains are exhausted or close to being exhausted for most at 8 weeks, this makes a reasonable point to mix in some sort of conditioning. I would suggest that you start with some quick anaerobic conditioning a couple of times a week, and build from there. Sprinting, 5 or 10 minutes of continuous KB work, any one of the many Crossfit workouts that are over in under 10 minutes. As you go from conditioning twice per week to 4-5 times, strength gains will certainly slow down, and probably stop. That’s OK, if strength was your only goal, you wouldn’t be conditioning in the first place.

After 8 weeks of pure strength programming, and 8 weeks of mixing strength with anaerobic conditioning, it is time to mix in some LSD and get aerobic. After all, when running from the zombies, there might well be a time when you have to cover 10 miles on foot as quickly and effectively as possible.

For your last 8 weeks, I would suggest 2 strength workouts per week, each followed by an anaerobic conditioning session. Enough to maintain each of these qualities, or come close to maintaining them. And add in 2-3 LSD sessions, or, at least one LSD session and 1-2 longer anaerobic conditioning sessions. Crossfit workouts that last well over 10 minutes, preferrably 20 minutes or more are good. Jogging is great. A day of hiking is great. Make sure you include at least one endurance activity per week where you are on your feet most of the time, as you are unlikely to be fighting zombies or evading them from on top of a rower.

If the zombies do not come within these first 6 months, test yourself. Make it a week long event. On the first day, emphasize strength. Get a powerlifting total, or get a Crossfit total. Or max your clean and jerk. Something to test your strength.

On the second day, test your anaerobic condition. Do a 10 minute continuous KB snatch test. Do Fran. Do a 1k or a 2k on a C2 rower. Or do 2 of these things, or something else, something that makes you work longer than 3 minutes, but not more than 10.

On your third day, see how fast you can cover 10 miles. Or 5 miles. Or see how far you can row in an hour. Or how fast you can transverse your favorite hiking trail with a modest backpack weighing you down.

What next? Make a new plan. Emphasize and prioritize what you are weakest at. And set another date to test yourself, preferably using the same tests as you did the first time. Look at where you have improved the most and least, and where your new weak point is, and make a new plan, and set a new date. Repeat to infinity. Remember, they may not be coming tomorrow, next week, or next month. But they are surely coming. Be prepared.

PS: for the average guy or girl who just wants to get more generally fit and healthy and look good naked but does not fear zombies, these are pretty good recommendations for you also.

I find your lack of faith… Disturbing.

For many lifters, sticking with the program is a difficult task. Beginners seem to have a particular problem with this, and it’s understandable. Everything is changing fairly fast. One day snatches feel natural; the next the bar goes everywhere except where it’s supposed to go. On Monday you might stand up with your clean easily on every rep. On Wednesday you might be catching a bit forward and struggle to stand up, or even fail to stand up with weights that were easy two days ago. Of course the temptation is to want to work extra hard on the snatch after a sub-par day of snatching, do extra front squatting after you have a day or two when the cleans are hard to stand up with, or to change your training plan or even your whole philosophy after a bad week or two.

But giving in to temptation is almost always wrong. Assuming you are following a well balanced program to begin with, have some faith. The road to the top is always filled with curves, and the road will only get longer if you jump around from one thing to another in your training. A good solid belief in what you are doing and a willingness to stay the course and put the required amount of work will get you to the finish line a lot quicker than changing your training program every time you hit a bump in the road. If you can’t do this, then just like Darth Vader, I find your lack of faith disturbing.

Gene Gilsdorf

Kids like the one in the picture (my son, William) need enthusiasm and praise from a coach just as much as they need technical correction and good programming. And some coaches simply do this better than others. And the ones who do it best are rarely the most experienced coaches around.

Let’s face it, we can’t all be Gene Gilsdorf. He is 58 years old and has been coaching for well over 30 years, yet still retains an enthusiasm that is unbelievable. I have seen him consistently react to say a 12 year old athlete making a 1kg PR in a local meet in a manner more expected when an Olympic gold medal is being won or a world record is being set. Jumping 3 feet in the air, clapping, yelling, then lots of hugs for the athlete. This after 40+ years in the sport and after coaching several international level athletes.

No, we can’t all be like Gene Gilsdorf, and it’s too bad.

I know I am less excited now about a beginner making a PR than I was a decade ago. I wish this wasn’t so, but, it is. As i watch competitions, it is always the newer coaches who are the most encouraging and the most enthusiastic about the progress and PR’s of beginner lifters. It is usually the newer coaches that work the hardest at recruiting, that try new things to grow the sport.

Of course, those with 10 to 20 years invested in coaching have something to offer that most beginner coaches do not. But those of us in this position need to realize that unless our drivers license says Gene Gilsdorf, these newer coaches have something to offer that we have lost a little bit of along the way. We need them as much as they need us. I have seen a fair bit of conflict between the “new guard” and the “old guard”. I got my share of friction when I was the new guy on the block, at least some of it deserved no doubt. But there is really no reason for the amount of friction that is sometimes seen.

I have come to realize that a few of those “new coaches” are gonna stick around for a decade or two, and could easily replace me. On the other hand, I doubt I will ever recover the enthusiasm for beginners I had 20 years ago. I love the sport more than ever, but some things are just better suited for youth. So maybe we need them even more than they need us?

If you are ever in Onaga, KS, stop by Onaga Weightlifting club and watch Gene coach. I am sure you will learn someting, and it will probably have nothing to do with start postion or how to pull a bar.

The Grand Prix

With the end of registration less than 2 weeks away, I would like to encourage those who have not yet entered to think again about coming to this event! I have heard a number of people tell me that they have decided not to participate because they “are not good enough” for this big of a meet, or that they “have no chance”. Both statements could not be further from the truth.

For one thing, there is more to the Grand Prix series than getting prize money. These meets are more than just a weightlifting contest, they are an event! This preliminary sets the stage for the full series next year (3 preliminary events and one finale) where there will be free technique clinics, various fun and spectator friendly contests outside of lifting, cookouts, $50,000 of prize money, various media coverage, and the very, very real chance of ending with the finale on TV! In fact, in this upcoming event, I will compete against Brad Hess in a 500 meter rowing contest, and will likely puke my guts up for the enjoyment of all spectators.

This is a very ambitious effort to promote Olympic lifting in the good old US of A, and to help popularize it with the masses. Come and support the sport whether or not you think you might walk away with any cash. And if you are a rank beginner? Come eat some BBQ with us, interact with some of the best coaches around, get a few pointers, get some experience on the platform, and above all, have FUN! We are very serious about providing beginners with the absolute best experience possible, so if you are a beginner entering your first or second meet, you WILL walk away a better lifter. I guarantee it.

Oh, and about the prize money? Have you noticed that because of the date, the lifters on the world team will be unable to participate? It’s my guess that of the 10 lifters walking away with cash, several will be in the category that came “even though they had no chance”.

So come on out to Charlotte for an event you will tell your grandchildren about. Well, maybe not, but at least you will tell your children. If you have them, that is.

And last but not least, I encourage all the bloggers that read this to SHARE IT! Put it on your blog word for word, link it, use part of it, I don’t care, just get the word out. Those with a facebook following, same to you! Get the word out and see you in Charlotte.

More Food

Yes, this has noodles in it, and I am always big on suppers of meat and veggies without the big carb sources like bread, pasta, and rice. But if you are gonna have a cheat meal, this is an easy, fast, and ridiculously tasty way to do it. Takes 10 minutes, plus the time needed to boil the water for the pasta.


Use good high quality whole wheat pasta. I get the stuff they sell at Costco. Of course it is sold in bulk, but, breaks down to about $1 per 16 oz portion. Get about 2.5 to 3lbs of seafood, I like to use shrimp, calamari, mussels, and scallops. I have tried other things like various kinds of fish, but this combination makes the most tasty finished product. I spend about $15 bucks for the 2.5 lbs that I normally use for this dish, I get about equal proportions of all 4 types, but your taste might vary. You must also have some marinara sauce, not spaghetti sauce, but marinara. I like the sweeter stuff for this dish, I get mine from the refrigerated section of Costco but you might want to try some different things to see what you like. Mine costs about $5 dollars for two little tubs of it, I use both tubs. You also need to have some olive oil and butter on hand.


Boil some water and add 16 oz of noodles. Mine take about 9-10 minutes to finish, and you will be finishing most everything else within that 10 minutes.

Add a little olive oil to a stir fry pan like the one in the picture. I dont measure but I would guess about 3-4 tablespoons. Dump all the seafood in the pan, and set the stove on or near high. Stir frequently, constantly even. If your stove is anything like mine, it will take about 5-6 minutes to thaw everything. At this point, quickly drain all the liquid out of the pan by whatever method you prefer, then add about 2-3 tablespoons of butter and continue cooking for about 3-4 more minutes. It is important to drain before you add the butter, or the final product will have a sauce that is too thin, and will taste maybe just a little TOO fishy. At this point the noodles will be done, drain them, put them in a serving dish, and add a couple of tablespoons of butter to keep them from sticking together. Now add the marinara to the seafood, and continue to cook till it starts boiling, 1-2 minutes usually.

And then you are done. Take the dish with the seafood and marinara and stick it on the table, do the same with the dish containing noodles. Then eat it.

This serves 4 normal humans, or 2 weightlifters. Or, it would serve Brian DeGennaro.

The total cost for one magical batch of this stuff is about $21 dollars. I doubt you could get one normal human serving at a good restaurant for that price. Plus, this recipe actually tastes better to me than most similar things I have eaten in restaurants.