If the food doesn’t kill you; the packaging might

greasy fast food

The other day I caved and bought myself fast food. The usual guilt I feel when putting hydrogenated deep fried shit into my body started to occur about a quarter the way into eating. Only recently however has this guilt found a partner; one that equally concerns me – the packaging thats used to contain the food.

PFCs/ PFASs

“PFCs” can be an abbreviation for perfluorinated chemicals; or a subset of perfluorinated chemicals called perfluorcarbons; or it can also stand for perfluorinated compounds.
The abbreviation PFASs (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances) is used alternatively to collectively describe PFOAs and PFOSs and other chemicals in this group (www.epa.gov, 2016).

Fluorine

If you’re familiar with the periodic table, you may recall the chemical element fluorine.
Fluorine is a dangerously reactive univalent poisonous gaseous halogen, it is pale yellow-green and is the most chemically reactive and electronegative of all the elements (lenntech.com, 1998-2017).

PFC’s are an organofluorine compound, which means it contains only carbon-fluorine bonds. They are used because of their hydrophobic (water-repellant) and lipophobic (oil/ fat resistant) properties. Their carbon-fluorine bonds makes them highly resistant to degradation (Schaider et al., 2017).

Pizza box

PFASs have been extensively used in water-, stain-, and oil-resistant consumer products, cookware, paints, waxes, fire-fighting foams, and polishes (Wu et al., 2015; Renner, 2001; Seacat et al., 2002). They have also been discovered in carpeting, carpet cleaners, upholstery, outdoor apparel, and food contact materials (FCMs) (Schaider et al., 2017; Kotthoff et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2015; Guo et al., 2009).

Certain PFASs and PFOSs and other chemicals were phased out voluntarily by major US manufacturers due to concerns of adverse health effects. However, these chemicals are still produced globally and continue to be imported to the U.S. (Schaider et al., 2017; U.S. Environmental Procession Agency., 2010/2015).

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, scientists detected PFASs in over 98% of the thousands of blood samples collected. Unfortunately for us, these chemicals are bioaccumulative and remain in our bodies for a long period of time.

crazy kid eating fast food

PFCs bind to proteins and are distributed mainly to the blood serum, kidney, and liver (Lau et al., 2007). Numerous studies have found correlations between exposures to PFASs and kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, low birth weight, decreased sperm count, immunotoxicity in children, and pregnancy induced hypertension (Schaider et al., 2017; Barry et al., 2013; Fei et al., 2007; Stein et al., 2009; Joensen et al., 2009; Lopez-Espinosa et al., 2012; Grandjean et al., 2012; Vested et al., 2013). These chemicals have also been associated with high cholesterol and uric acid, as well as neurological effects, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children (Wu et al., 2015; Hoffman et al., 2010).

PFASs and FCMs

In 2014 and 2015, 407 samples of food packaging at U.S. fast food restaurants were collected and tested for detectable fluorine (F) concentrations by Schaider et al., 2017. The samples were divided into 6 categories: food contact paper (e.g. sandwich wrappers an pastry bags), non-contact paper (e.g. outer bags), food contact paperboard (e.g. boxes for fries and pizza), paper cups (e.g. for hot or cold drinks), other beverages (e.g. milk and juice containers), and miscellaneous (e.g. lids and applesauce containers).

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 3.29.09 PM

Of the 407 samples, 33% had detectable total F concentrations, ranging from 16 to 800nmol of F/cm2. However, consider this – 16nmol of F/cm2 is equal to 30µg of F/dm2. This is the acceptable level of detection (LOD) according to the US guidelines. This acceptable LOD is buzz lightyears above the Danish Ministry of Environment and Foods guideline of 0.35µg of F/dm2 for total organic fluorine (Schaider et al., 2017; Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark., 2015). With that said – they detected PFASs in 100% of the samples collected with total F concentrations below the LOD.

Screen Shot 2017-07-24 at 3.29.58 PM

The amount of PFASs that migrates from FCMs into our food is dependant on the amount, type, and chain length of PFASs used, the type of food (water -vs fat-based), the temperature, and the contact time. (Schaider et al., 2017; Begley et al., 2008; Yuan et al., 2016).

Presently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves more than 90 unique monomer and polymer PFAS’s for use in FCMs, including 20 PFASs to impart oil, grease, and/or water resistance.

Conclusion/ Summary

To conclude, food contact materials (FCMs) consist of perfluoronated chemicals (PFCs) -alternativey called PFASs. They’re used because they are highly resistant to degradation, as well as their water-, stain- and oil-resistant properties.

These chemicals make their way into food and there are numerous concerns of adverse health effects, including kidney cancer, and ADHD. Exposure to PFASs is especially relevent for kids since 1/3 of U.S. children consume fast food daily (Vilkraman et al., 2015).

Schaider et al., 2017 collected over 400 FCM samples from various fast food restaurants in the United States. 33% had dectedable fluorine levels above the U.S. standards of 30µg of F/dm2. However, this standard is undeniably greater than the Danish standard of .35µg of F/dm2. With that said, all of the samples tested had detectable levels of fluorine.

 

References

Barry, V.; Winquist, A.; Steenland, K. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) exposures and incident cancers among adults living near a chemical plant. Environ. Health Perspect. 2013, 121 (11-12), 1313-1318.

Fact Sheet: 2010/2015 PFOA Stewardship Program; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Washington, DC (http://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-manging-chemicals-under-tsca/fact-sheet-20102015-pfoa-stewardship-program) (accessed July 9, 2016).

Fei, C.; McLaughlin, J.K.; Tarone, R. E.; Olsen, J. Perfluorinated chemicals and fetal growth: A study with the Danish National Birth Cohort. Environ. Health Perspect. 2007, 115 (11), 1677-1682.

Fluorine-F.; Lenntech, B.V, 1998-2017 (www.lenntech.com/periodic/elements/f/htm) (accessed July 4, 2017).

Guo, Z.; Liu, X.; Krebs, K. Perfluorocarboxylic acid content in 116 articles of commerce. EPA/600/R-09/033; Office of Research and Development, National Risk Management Research Laboratory, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Research Triangle Park, NC, 2009.

Grandjean, P.; Andersen, E. W.; Budtz-Jorgensen, E.; Nielsen, F.; Molbak, K.; Weihe, P.; Heilmann, C. Serum vaccine antibody concentrations in children exposed to perfluorinated compounds. JAMA, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 2012, 307 (4), 391-397.

Hoffman, K.; Webster, T. F.; Weinberg, J.; Vieira, V. M.; Weisskopf, M. G. Exposure to polyfluoroalkyl chemicals and attention deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in US children 12-15 years of age. Environ. Health Perspect. 2010, 118, 1762-1767.

Joensen, U. N.; Bossi, R.; Leffers, H.; Jensen, A. A.; Skakkebaek, N. E; Jorgensen, N. Do perfluoroalkyl compounds impair human semen quality? Environ. Health Perspect. 2009, 117 (6), 923-927.

Kotthoff, M.; Muller, J.; Jurling, H.; Schlummer, M.; Fiedler, D. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances in consumer products. Environ. Sci. Pollut. Res. 2015, 22 (9), 14546-14559.

Lau, C.; Anitole, K.; Hodes, C.; Lai, D.; Pfahles-Hutchens, A.; Seed, J. Perfluoroalkyl acids: a review monitoring and toxicological findings. Toxicol. Sci. 2007, 99, 336-394.

Liu, X.; Guo, Z.; Folk, E. E.; Roache, N.F. Determination of fluorotelomer alcohols in selected consumer products and preliminary investigation of their fate in the indoor environment. Chemosphere 2015, 129, 81-86.

Lopez-Espinosa, M.-J.; Mondal, D.; Armstrong, B.; Bloom, M. S.; Fletcher, T. Thyroid function and perfluoroalkyl acids in children living near a chemical plant. Environ. Health Perspect. 2012. 120 (7). 1036-1041.

Renner, R., 2001. Growing concern over perfluorinated chemicals. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2001. 35, 154-160.

Schaider, L.A.; Balan, S.A.; Blum, A.; Andrews, D.Q.; Strynar, M.J.; Dickinson, M.E.; Lunderberg, D.M.; Lang, J.R.; Peaslee, G.F. Fluorinated Compounds in U.S. Fast Food Packaging. Environ. Sci. Technol. Lett. 2017, 105-111.

Seacat, A.M.; Thomford, P.J.; Hansen, K.J.; Olsen, G.W.; Case, M.T.; Butenhoff, J.L. Subchronic toxicity studies on perfluorooctanesulfonate potassium salt in cynomolgus monkeys. Toxicol. Sci. 2002, 68, 249-264.

Stein, C. R.; Savitz, D. A.; Dougan, M. Serum levels of perfluorooctanoic acid and perfluorooctane sulfonate and pregnancy outcome. Am. J. Epidemiol. 2009, 170 (7), 837-846.

Vested, A.; Ramlau-Hansen, C. H.; Olsen, S. F.; Bonde, J. P.; Kristensen, S. L.; Halldorsson, T. I.; Becher, G.; Haug, L. S.; Earnst, E. H.; Toft, G. Associations of in utero exposure to perfluorinated alkyl acids with human semen quality and reproductive hormones in adult men. Environ. Health Perspect. 2013, 121 (4), 453-458.

What are PFCs and how do they relate to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs)?; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2016 (https://www.epa.gov/pfas/what-are-pfcs-and-how-do-they-relate-and-polyfluoroalkyl-substances-pfass) (accessed July 2, 2017).

Wu, X.M.; Bennett, D.H.; Calafat, A.M.; Kato, K.; Strynar, M.; Andersen, E.; Moran, R.E.; Tancredi, D.J.; Tulve, N.S.; Hertz-Picciotto, I. Serum concentrations of perfluorinated compounds (PFC) among selected populations of children and adults in California. Elsevier Environmental Research 2015, 136, 264-273.

 

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Recipe: Curry Chickpea

Basmati Rice – 1 cup+
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tbsp
Red Onion – 1 Small or Half a Medium; diced
Small Garlic Cloves – 3 Large or 5 to 6 Small Cloves; minced
Bell Pepper (red, yellow or green) – Half; sliced
Salt and Pepper – a few shakes
Curry Paste (red, yellow or green) – 2 tbsp
Coconut Milk – 1 can
Tomato – 1 small; diced
Cumin – 1 tbsp
Crushed Cayenne – 1 level tbsp *optional
Soya Sauce – 2 tbsp
Brown Sugar – 2 tbsp
Lime – 1; juiced
Chick Peas – half a can; drained and thoroughly rinsed
Basil Leaves – 3 Leaves; dried or fresh

Curry Dish
Not the best photo, but I promise it tastes awesome.

I rarely eat meat, and I do my best to limit my intake of dairy products. With that said, while I wouldn’t consider myself vegan, I do try to avoid animal products as much as possible. This leaves me searching for nutritious and satisfying meals that are easy to make and won’t empty my wallet. Thankfully this hasn’t been hard to do and I have managed to master (I think so anyways) a few solid recipes.

The recipe I want to share today is a Chickpea Curry Dish. I have listed the ingredients in the order in which they should be added to a large skillet; except for the rice, which should be cooked separately – ideally in a rice cooker.

I find it easiest to dice, mince, and slice all of the veggies, and have all the ingredients ready to go before starting the cooking process. You can heat up the skillet on medium / low high heat while cutting your vegetables, adding the oil after it has been heated.

After adding the extra virgin olive oil, toss in the diced red onions and minced garlic cloves. Let this fry for a couple minutes, then add the sliced bell pepper. I prefer to use green bell peppers but its completely up to you. Add a few shakes of salt and pepper on top of the veggies and make sure to stir/ flip it around.

Next step is to add the curry paste. Please note the word paste – not sauce! I like to use red – but again it is up to you what colour you want to incorporate. Toss in 2 tbsp and stir it around the pan and the vegetables. Shortly after, add the can of coconut milk and continue to stir until the colour become homogenous.

Toss in the diced tomato and add a tbsp of cumin. I love cumin and it certainly couples well with the curry paste to add even more flavour. On that note, I also recommend adding some crushed cayenne or chilli flakes to add some heat; but how much, if any, is your choice. Afterwards, add the soya sauce, brown sugar, and the juice from 1 lime into the mix. Give it a good stir then finally add the half can of chickpeas (I find a full can to be way too much) and 3 basil leaves. Let this sit, stirring occasionally for 15-20 minutes.

Serve in a bowl with a side of rice and enjoy!

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training

Occlusion-Training

What is it?

Blood flow restriction (BFR) is a training strategy involving the use of wraps or cuffs placed proximally around a limb; with the aim of maintaining arterial flow while occluding venous return during exercise (Scott et al. 2015). In layman’s terms this means that blood is flowing into the muscle; but none, or very little is getting out.

How is it performed?

A popular method is to use elasticated knee wraps and wrap them around the upper thighs or upper arms. A perceived wrap tightness of 7/10 will result in complete venous, but not arterial occlusion and has been used in a study by Lowery et al. (2014).

One must ensure the wraps are not too tight nor too lose. Loenneke et al. (2014) found that pressure appeared to increase muscle activation from 40-50% arterial occlusion but did not result in further increases at higher pressure. In other words, if they’re too tight
you will not elicit any benefits and you’ll increase risk of injury, if they are not tight enough blood easily leaves the muscle, eliminating the purpose of the wraps. Many strategies have been reported, however relatively light load resistant training using 20-30% 1RM is most common. Performing 4-6 sets to failure of exercises such as leg extensions, hamstring curls, squats, lunges, biceps curls, and triceps extensions.

Why use this technique?

Takarada et al (2002) did a study on a group of 17 male athletes and divided them into 3 groups – low intensity with occlusion (LIO); low intensity without occlusion (LI), and normal training.

The LIO group had both sides of their upper thighs trained with the proximal portions being compressed by a specially designed elastic belt. The subjects performed bilateral knee extensions for 4 sets at approximately 50% of their predetermined 1RM to failure, with 30 second rest intervals. Sessions lasted no longer than 10 minutes. The LI group then had to match the number of reps performed by the occlusion group. This was completed twice a week for 8 weeks, totalling 16 sessions.

This study aimed to measure several things including changes in muscle strength through measurement of isokinetic strength at preset angular velocities, and measurement of isometric torque at a knee angle of 80 degrees. They estimated changes in muscle endurance by having the subjects perform 50 repeated contractions of leg extensions and comparing the average value of peak torque during the last ten contractions compared to the initial ten contractions.

In addition, an MRI was used to retrieve cross-sectional images of the thigh in order to determine if an increase in strength was due to muscle hypertrophy or neuromotor adaptation. EMG signals were recorded from the vastus lateralis muscle as an indicator of muscle fibre recruitment during isometric torque exertion. Tests and image results were recorded prior to and after the 16 sessions.

The results of this study are undeniable as dramatic increases occurred within the LIO group in comparison to the LI and untrained control group. Percentage increases in strength after training were 14.3 (2.0)%, and 3.2 (2.3)% for the LIO and LI groups, respectively. Significant improvements in muscle endurance was seen in the LIO group only, which was believed to be caused by metabolic adaptations in the muscle fibres instead of an increased resistance to fatigue in the nervous system.

Both pre and post training MRI images were taken of the LIO group only. After the 8 weeks of vascular occlusion there was an approximate 15% increase of the cross-sectional area of the knee extensors. These results suggest that the increase in strength after occlusion training is due primarily to muscle hypertrophy.

Since hormones basically control everything, I want to quickly refer to a separate study previously conducted by Takarada et. al (2000). This study looked at growth hormone after low-intensity exercise with occlusion. The protocol was very similar to the one mentioned above, but used just 20% of the subjects 1RM.

The results of this study indicated that exercise with occlusion can provoke strong endocrine responses even at low intensities, as growth hormone increased 290 times as high as that before exercise. This is a significantly greater increase than that reported by Kraemer et al. (1990) for high-intensity resistant exercise with a short rest period (typical bodybuilding routine).

Conclusion

Blood flow restriction is a training strategy that can elicit major increases in muscle size and strength, as well as improvements in muscle endurance using just 20-50% 1RM. Major increases in growth hormone, peaking 15 minutes after the completion of low intensity resistance exercise with occlusion have been reported. This increase is even greater than that found after high-intensity resistance exercise without occlusion.

How I Use BFR

I recently employed this technique in my own training. Thus far I have completed 4 barbell back squat sessions using 35% of my 1RM, and 2 barbell front squat sessions using 30% 1RM. I performed 15-20 reps for 4-5 sets and keep my rest period under 1 minute. Since I do not have access to the special cuffs I have been using elasticated wraps and follow the suggested perceived wrap tightness of 7/10. Since the studies I have read kept the total occluded time within 10 minutes, I do as well; only removing the wraps after I have completed the exercise session.

It is difficult for me to measure if increases in muscular strength, size, and/or endurance is solely attributed to BFR as I train in weightlifting 3-4 times/ week and recently got back on my rollerblades since the weather has gotten more tolerable up in the North. However, I do plan on re-testing my 1RM back squat after a few more sessions, as prior to utilizing BFR my numbers were plateauing. Simply from the way my legs look and feel after these 6 sessions, coupled with the results of these studies, I am confident this will be the catalyst to any increases in my performance.

 

 

 

References

Scott, B. R., Loenneke, J. P., Slattery, K. M. & Dascombe, B. J. (2015). Blood flow restricted exercise for athletes: a review of the evidence. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport.

Lowery, R. P., Joy, J. M., Loenneke, J. P., de Souza, E. O., Machado, M., Dudeck, J. E. & Wilson, J. M. (2014). Practical blood flow restriction training increases muscle hypertrophy during a periodized resistance training programme. Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, 34(4), 317-21.

Loenneke, J. P., Kim, D., Fahs, C. A., Thiebaud, R. S., Abe, T., Larson, R. D., Bemben, D. A. & Bemben, M. G. (2014a). Effects of exercise with and without different degrees of blood flow restriction on torque and muscle activation. Muscle and Nerve.

Takarada, Y., Sato, Y., Ishii, N., (2002). Effects of resistance exercise combined with vascular occlusion on muscle function in athletes. European Journal of Applied Physiology.

Takarada, Y., Nakamura, Y., Aruga, S., Onda, T., Miyazaki, S., Ishii, N. (2000). Rapid increase in plasma growth hormone after low-intensity resistance exercise with vascular occlusion. Journal of Applied Physiology.

Kraemer, W. J., L. Marchitelli, S. E. Gordon, E. Harman, J. E. Dziados, R. Mello, P. Frykman, D. McCurry, S. J. Fleck. (1990). Hormonal and growth factor response to heavy resistance exercise protocols. Journal of Applied Physiology.

Personal Training – why you may want to consider it a side job

Personal-Trainer-2

I could of sworn I found “my calling.” After losing weight and gaining strength I wanted nothing more than to help others do the same. So I began my journey towards becoming a personal trainer. 7+ years later and I have learned so much and can’t help but wonder if I would have chosen a different route had I known what I know now.

I earned my diploma in fitness and health promotion in 2011. I was proud of myself as that program was challenging and demanded a lot from me. I finished it within the 2 years and within that time I attained a personal trainer certificate (that cost a lot of money). Like many students, when I graduated I thought things would be easier in terms of finding suitable work and making money – it wasn’t.

Finding a job that didn’t require a degree and 5 years experience was immensely difficult. I was hired by a commercial gym – what I thought would be a solid opportunity; yet quickly realized you’d have to give up part of your soul, because everything was about revenue and dollar signs. They expected me to put on a shirt with their name on it, walk their gym floors, perform BS fitness appraisals, and try to sell their over priced packages; all the meanwhile making absolutely nothing unless I sell. The best part was being expected to cold call old members (am I the only one who really doesn’t see the benefit in this?) in hopes they would re-sign and buy personal training. The one meeting I sat in on discussed nothing of client success, needs, programming; or anything truly important to the clients – just how much money was made.

Needless to say that didn’t last long and I moved on to work for gyms in the municipal setting, which proved to be much better; but not without its challenges. You will still need to build a clientele. Personal training is the one service that people not only have to pay for, but they have to do the work as well. Sure, the trainer writes the programs, ensures proper form and execution – but the client has to show up.

Your income will vary from week to week, month to month; until you’ve built up a reliable and consistent clientele. Keep in mind that even those most committed will go on vacation, get sick, move, or have other commitments that take the forefront. With proper notice this will leave you with gaps in your schedule, and less money in your account.

Another thing to consider is how much of a cut your employer will be taking from you. Some places may ensure you get consistent hours working as part of their fitness staff, but will still take more than half of your hourly personal training wage; which may leave you wondering why you don’t just work for yourself.

I explored that option after realizing I could make $50+/hr instead of 15 or 20. Here’s the thing – I don’t have my own facility and driving around can get costly. The time it takes to get from one location to the next can be exhausting and ultimately cost you money in gas and time. Not to mention, if you don’t target areas of higher income it is very likely you’ll be limited to the number of people who can and will pay for your service. I did start up my own small business and saw some success but ultimately learned it is so much easier to have the clients come to you.

With that said, I looked into renting space in order to conduct my own group fitness classes and one on one personal training. You will have to pay a facility rental fee for each hour you use their space. Unless you have the numbers, for the first several months at least, you will be making very little or even lose money. Thats not to say you can’t find success in this profession; I just want to warn you that it isn’t easy in any sense of the word.

What about privately owned gyms? I’ve dipped my toes into those as well. I’ve applied and interviewed at multiple locations around the GTA and Toronto. What I have come to learn is that the bottom line is business. People are in it to make money. I get it – we have to survive. These gyms (and others) have tiers of personal trainers. The more money you put into “earning” certificates, the higher level trainer you become with better pay. It doesn’t matter how much you study on your own time – you must spend hundreds of dollars to get the credentials that will allow you to move up in wage and status. I suppose you can find such thing in many other professions.

So, lets remove some of the pressure and try working for a not-for-profit organization. I did just that, and yet again gained no job security or steady income. Not-for-profit organizations have extremely tight budgets and often rely on government grants and donations to keep programs running. With that said, your wage as a personal/group trainer will be way less than the effort you put into it. This is when your passion to want to help others must out weigh the need to generate income. If your anything like me, you’ll wish it was that simple; but with creditors at your door and rent payments to make – it’s devastating getting paid less than you deserve/require.

Another thing worth mentioning is the hours you’ll work – they will (more than likely) be all over the place. Unless you become so popular that people work around your schedule, you’ll have to work around the clients. This means getting up at 5am and training clients before work; possibly return during the lunch hour, and then again late at night. This is most definitely not a 9-5 weekday job; not even close.

I do not mean to come of as a negative ninny. If you’re passionate enough and put in the work, you can find success. At the very least I can say that I have accomplished what I wanted to do – help dozens of people improve their lifestyle, lose weight, gain strength, and increase their independency. I have had many moments over the past 7+ years that reminded me why I wanted to make this a career. I am not one to give up but I have learned the value of having a back up plan and not isolating yourself to one source of income. It’s a smart thing to have no matter what profession you are in, especially personal training.

Keep Moving.

Weightlifting

September 1st, 2015 I made the move from Brampton to North Bay, Ontario. I came in light of new experiences and the opportunity to learn how to Olympic style weight lift from one of the best coaches, Larry Sheppard.

My desire to get in shape started when I was 16 years old, and now at 28; I have learned so much through education, personal successes, and failures. However, just when I thought I had a good grasp on everything; my style of training has been completely flipped in pursuit of becoming an athlete.

IMG_0379-2

For as long as I can remember I worked out to look good. Vanity and lack of self esteem pushed me towards the commercial facilities where mirrors line every wall, and platforms are non existent. I’ve worked out in gyms that don’t allow chalk, and have had employees tell me I can’t drop the weights as I was performing heavy deadlifts.

I dipped my toes in the physique competitions – but in all honestly they were super amateur. It’s something I am proud of in the sense it took hard work and courage; but at the same time I roll my eyes because it just wasn’t me.

I wish I had known someone in the powerlifting or weightlifting community 10 years ago; but would-a-should-a-could-a; this is where I am at now and thats what matters. I began learning the snatch and clean & jerk in early September 2015.

What is the Snatch?

Snatch+Phases+Trajectory-lowres

The Snatch is the first of the two Olympic lifts to be contested, followed by the clean & jerk. The aim is the lift a loaded bar from the floor to overhead, in one smooth, continuous motion.

The athlete begins by setting themselves up so that the bar is directly over their metatarsals with their feet hip width apart; toes turned out slightly. A wide “hook grip” is used on the bar (fingers on top of thumbs), and the arms straight with the shoulders directly over the bar, or slightly in front of it. The thighs should be almost parallel to the floor (depending on femur length), and the back remains straight and tight with extension in the thoracic vertebrae. The chest should be open and head titled back.

“Lift off” begins the moment the bar is separated from the floor as the athlete then moves into the “first pull.” During this phase the lifter begins to extend their knees and moves their hips upward while keeping a constant back angle relative to the floor. Centre of gravity shifts towards the heels as the lifter pulls the bar close to their body. The bar begins to accelerate at the end of this phase as they “transition” to position themselves appropriately for the second pull. During this transition is where you’ll often see the “double-knee” bend.

IMG_0387
$50,000 Eleiko platform from the Pan Am games

The “second pull” is an explosive movement that is executed through the extension of the hips, knees, and ankles (triple extension); followed by a strong elevation of the shoulders (shrug). This is where the bar will “brush” the hips and feet leave the ground to quickly move into the squat position. The “turnover” phase occurs as the lifter begins to pull themselves under the bar, and the “catch phase” occurs the moment the lifters feet have landed on the platform, catching the bar overhead with arms locked out. It is finished only when the lifter shows control of the bar by standing up and bringing the feet together.

What is the clean & jerk?

The clean & jerk is the second lift to be contested and is comprised of two stages which also has the athlete lift the bar from the floor to an overhead position.

They begin by setting their feet under their hips and by grabbing the bar just outside their legs using a “hook grip.” The bar is lifted to the top of the knees where the athlete then performs the “triple extension” through explosive extension of the hips, knees, and ankles; followed by a big shrug. The aim here is to get the bar as high as possible before dropping into the squat and receiving the bar in the “racked” position (bar sits in front of the neck resting on the anterior deltoids). The lifter then stands back up and readjusts their grip width in preparation for the jerk.

IMG_0403

The jerk begins where the clean finishes; with the bar across the shoulders and the back vertical. The lifter dips just a few inches by flexing the knees; then through explosive extension of the knees the barbell is propelled upwards off the shoulders. The athlete pushes the bar with their arms and quickly drops under by splitting their feet in a lunge type fashion (one forward and one back). The bar is received overhead with the arms straight, and once stable; the lifter recovers from the split position by bringing their feet back together.

Ofcouse these explanations may be missing some aspects, but you get a good idea of what I have been up to over the past 8 months. I have competed in 3 competitions thus far and took 3rd place in my weight class in my last competiton on April 9, 2015. I still have a long ways to go before I am even close to competing on a more serious level (these girls are strong!!!), but I am just happy to have found something new and exciting. It feels great to be more concerned over how I perform rather than how I look.

Most importantly, I have been working hard to learn how to coach these lifts. I have engulfed myself in everything weightlifting and succeeded passing my level one weightlifting certification with the NCCP. I will have a second diploma in strength and sports condidtioning in a couple weeks time and I hope to find work in the health promotion and coaching fields.

The past to now

I don’t often treat shape180 as a journal, but this is an exception. I have made major changes in my life and feel it necessary to write out some highs and lows as reminder to myself in the future.

I recently left my job of four years working for the city of Brampton. I worked as a personal/group trainer at a few different recreation centres over those years. I had the opportunity to work with diverse groups of people and gained experience that cannot be learned in the classroom.

IMG_0518

My experiences all involve people and the relationships I made with them. My clients were a pleasure to work with and I would like to thank all of those who helped me grow. More specifically, I will not forget the day when a couple of men from eOne Entertainment distribution centre came in looking to put a class together for their employees once week. I became their boot camp instructor, and that one class a week eventually turned into 6, with myself teaching 5 of them. Their company opened it up to their office and warehouse staff, and 2 years later I can say with honesty that it was successful on both ends.

farewell1

Although the classes were successful; Brampton was wearing me out – overpopulated, frustrating, expensive, redundant. I had lived in the same house for 27 years, only moving out at the beginning of summer to live with a girlfriend before school started in North Bay, September 8th, 2015. I had missed the classroom, and needed a way out. My relationship with me ex-boyfriend lasted about 3 years, knowing him for 5. That was over; a lot of my friends have moved; and I could not be stuck in Brampton for another 27 years.

I started the strength and sports conditioning program at Canadore College and I am fast-tracking a second diploma (thanks to my previous diploma in fitness and health promotions from Humber college). I was so pumped when I was told I was able to fast-track; things were going my way and I am not quite used to that.

So far so good! I am lucky to have my dog with me for the ride – she means the world to me. I am renting a room on a large property with a lot of space for her to run. There are 2 other dogs here – Laska showed them who’s boss so things have been going smoothly since then.

Canadore College

North Bay is beautiful and a breath of fresh air. Its nice to be reminded that civilization hasn’t destroyed all of Mother Nature. I am enjoying my program and cannot believe the difference between Canadore and Humber college in terms of population. It is not crowed here and my experience is so relaxing compared to the past. For one, I have a car and a parking pass (but even if I didn’t, I only live 2km down the road); I used to take the bus to Humber – 1.5 hours one way – and it absolutely sucked. Another reason is all thanks to Humber college; I feel educated in the subjects I am taking and I have a strong background both academically and professionally. This is also largely credited to my experiences in my previous jobs (I worked at Curves prior to the city – at least it was fitness related :P).

It’s just myself and my dog up here but thats ok, I am meeting people quickly and I am training hard like always. I have already met one very important man that I will have to write about another time.

Here’s to a new start.