Caribbean Style Rice & Beans

IMG_0621

 

Ingredients:

  • Long Grain Rice – 2 cups; thoroughly rinsed until water runs clear
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 2 tbs
  • Red Onion – 1/2 medium; diced
  • Garlic Cloves – 4-5; minced
  • Mushroom Caps – 4 small; sliced
  • Bell Pepper – 1/2; diced
  • Fresh Bay Leaves x 2
  • Fresh Thyme – 1 tbs
  • Vegetable broth bouillon cube x1
  • Coconut Milk – 19oz can
  • Water – 3 cups
  • Red Kidney Beans – 190z can; drained & thoroughly rinsed
  • Creole Seasoning – 4+ tbs
  • Salt & Pepper – a few dashes

IMG_0614

Instructions:

Heat a large sauté pan or skillet with on medium/ low heat. Wait a of couple minutes for the pan to heat up, then add the 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. After the oil has time to heat, toss in the red onion and minced garlic. Shortly after, include the bell pepper, mushrooms, and fresh thyme. Stir it all around and add a dash of salt and black pepper.

IMG_0615

Now its time to add the long grain rice that you have washed extremely thoroughly. Even it all out then pour 3 cups of water into the pan. The coconut milk is then added along with the vegetable broth bouillon cube, 4+ tablespoons of creole seasoning (I love this seasoning so I don’t hold back), and the rinsed red kidney beans. Finally, add the 2 fresh bay leaves and bring it to a simmer.

IMG_0616

Cover and reduce heat, stiring freuquently to prevent burning, adding water if necessary. It takes about 20-25 minutes for the rice to cook and water to evaporate, at which point you’ll be left with a creamy rice thats not only delicious and nutritious, but also free of animal products. Do not forget to remove the bay leaves prior to serving.

IMG_0620

Creole Seasoning Blend: 

  • 2 tbs Onion Powder
  • 2 tbs Garlic Powder
  • 2 tbs Dried Basil
  • 2 tbs Dried Oregano
  • 1 tbs Dried Thyme
  • 1 tbs Black Pepper
  • 1 tbs White Pepper
  • 1 tbs Cayenne Pepper
  • 5 tbs Paprika
  • 3 tbs Salt

creole seasoning

In a small bowl, combine all of the above ingredients. Store in an air tight container.

You may be able to find this seasoning already made up at your grocery store, likely in the international isle. I did not have such luck, but easily picked up all the herbs and spices at bulk barn.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Is it necessary?

Having little money/ being broke ever since I left home has forced me to put things into perspective in terms of what is necessary when it comes to my personal fitness.

Things were simple when I first started exercising about 12 years ago. I worked out at home and scaled back my calorie consumption. I wasn’t paying for a gym membership and I was consuming little calories that came from food my mom bought. I dropped -too much- weight and found myself having to re-evaluate the angle I was taking.

I later joined a gym located around the corner from my house. It was one of the half dozen weight rooms ran by the city of Brampton in their recreational department. In addition, I eventually smartened up when it came to nutrition — or so I thought.

Fast forward a little futher and I am paying for a gym membership and have begun picking up my own groceries; because eating copious amounts of lean chicken and turkey with rice and broccoli is the only way to get fit (rolls eyes so hard they almost fall out). A couple of decent chicken breasts are easily 10 bucks; which adds up mighty quick when that is the bulk of your diet.

My time spent on fitness websites were at an all time high, gawking over all the amazing physiques telling myself I will look like that one day. Heck! I may even compete. Before I could even think about that however, I needed supplements, lots of glorious supplements!!!

Of course whey protein was the first to be added, then branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), followed by L-Arginine, Beta Alanine, creatine, and caffiene. I even wrote a post about it all. My once zero dollars spent on supplements easily became 100-130$ every 4-5 weeks.

Wake up call

At the end of fast tracking a second diploma in early 2016 I found myself with a lot of debt, and jobs that paid me little or offered few hours. I couldn’t spend money unnecessarily without it coming back to bite me in the ass. There were days where I had to decide to put gas in my car or groceries in my fridge. I remember pulling to the side of the road one afternoon and cried as I fought anxiety and tried to figure out how the hell I am going to keep it together.

At this point my purchasing of supplements days were long gone. After 3-4 years of taking supplements I had no choice but to put it to rest until I was in a more stable financial situation. My days of eating chicken and turkey breasts were also behind me. Meat had always grossed me out, I just got it in my head that it was the best way to be lean and fit. Now, without a bunch of money to waste on dead carcasses; I began eating more beans, lentils, rice, pastas, and even bread.

Funny thing is, my strength did not deteriorate; if anything it increased. Is it possible the supplements weren’t doing much and I simply wasn’t giving my body what it needed from food? Yes, yes it is. Is it also possible that eating a plethora amount of animal products isn’t the optimal diet for a weightlifter? Yes ma’am, thats what I have come to believe.

Now I know this post comes with no hard core facts, just personal opinion. Take from it what you may. Im simpy suggesting you don’t waste your money on a bunch of supplements. If anything supplement your deficiencies, while considering the time of year. For example, I take Vitamin D3 drops in the fall/ winter because of the lack of sunlight.

As for the meat — I honestly believe it’s not good for us humans. Maybe 1-2 times a week; but not every meal, every day. Without getting into the science and health facts, to me eating more plant based foods just makes sense. From my experience I feel better, my skin looks better, and I carry the most muscle mass I ever have, all while spending less on groceries.

What are your thoughts?

 

 

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.

 

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.

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.

9 Fit Tips I Wish 16 Year Old Haley Knew


1. VISUALIZE

visualize

As humans we have an extraordinary ability to “see” something that isn’t there.  When a vision is so strong coupled with the desire to achieve that picture, it will happen. I used to look in the mirror and only see what I didn’t like, I’d put myself down and then walk away feeling like a pile of shit – useless right? Now I do my best to love what I see, and then take it a step further and see what isn’t there – yet. My butts bigger, delts rounder, and quads are popping. I truly believe that this technique will have you seeing the real thing sooner than without it.

2. THE ALL OR NON RESPONSE SHOULD BE FOR MUSCLE RECRUITMENT ONLY

When a motor neuron sends a signal to a motor unit, it will contract all the muscle fibres it innervates; or none at all. Adversely, you planned an intense hour long workout but life just got in the way. Now you have 20 minutes – skip it? NO! Pick the biggest lift for that day and go hammer it as many times as you can in the time you have. The short workouts add up, as do ones that are missed, which do you prefer? Same should be applied to your nutrition, if you ate a piece of cake for Betty’s birthday today don’t use this as a reason to keep eating junk.


3. EAT FOR YOUR GOALS/DAILY NEEDS

stories-oatheart

This one I need to do in point form because here are the facts:

  • If you want to get big, you have to eat big.
  • IIFYM is a load of shit, eat good food.
  • If you want to lean out, you have to burn more than you consume.
  • Not eating at all, or not eating all day, or going too long between meals will not help you AT ALL when it comes to achieving weight loss.
  • Lean proteins are your muscles best friend.
  • Rice, oats, veggies, fruits, quinoa, couscous are the best carb options
  • Healthy fats such as those found in nuts, seeds, coconut oils, avocado, and fish oils are absolutely vital.
  • Pick up a nutrition book, this isn’t your car we are talking about – you can always get a new car.

4. STOP WORKING OUT – START TRAINING

I WISH someone had offered me this tip when I first started to exercise. Like most, vanity and the fact I was uncomfortable in my own skin propelled me to start moving more. However when I stopped working out and started TRAINING is when everything really came together. Find specific exercises / lifts, a sport, something physical to get really good at; then plan your workouts around those moves, and others that help improve it (i.e. Deadlift: deficit sumo deadlift, deadlift from pins, barbell bent rows with torso angled at 90 degrees…).

5. TRAINING WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND SUCKS

Middle finger

I didn’t have time to make, never mind drink my green tea. Yet I had to wait 20 minutes for him to go through his 50 mobility corrective bullshit exercises. By then my warm up was done and that mental peak had come and gone. I had weight loaded on me before I was ready and he was totally annoyed with the fact my bar height/weights were so different from his. He’d then go on to be a loud jackass and treat me like one of his juiced up buddies. Worst of all, God forbid we’d stick around to do anything extra because it wasn’t in “the plan.” Needless to say we don’t speak anymore, and the fact we hated each other in the weight room definitely contributed to that. Your gym partner should compliment your style of training, not completely piss you off and make you feel small. #itsmyblogicansaywhatiwant #yeaheisadouchebag  #totallybiased

6. IF IT’S FOR ANYONE BUT YOU, IT WILL TURN INTO “WORK”

If entering a fitness competition motivates you to train harder – great! If your boyfriend likes big glutes – awesome! If you have to be strong for your job – fantastic! However, the more you train for reasons other than those that hold true to yourself, it’s only a matter of time before that spark fizzles.

7. YOU’RE NO BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE

Letting the size of your ego inflate along with your biceps is so very, very unattractive. It’s great if your new physique makes you feel like Hercules, but there is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Please don’t turn into to one of those people that scare newbies away. It’s about overall health for most people; they don’t give a shit how much you can bench.

8. HAVE A BEER AND A SLICE OF PIZZA

Don’t misconstrue this point; I would never try to sabotage your goals. I myself am a very healthy eater. I eat to Train and I am lucky because I find true enjoyment in doing so. However, there are days when I’ve eaten all my lean protein and leafy greens but still have this gut feeling I need something more. Only something greasy will satisfy this, and without going overboard, I feel like that cold beer and slice of pizza is the punch in the face my metabolism needs once in a while. However if you post your “cheat meal” on social media, I’ll then want to punch you in the face.

9. FOOD SCALE IS A GOOD IDEA SHORT TERM

food scale

The food scale is an excellent tool to get a good grasp on portion sizes. You may be surprised that 15g of peanut butter isn’t the size of your fist (unfortunately). Through weighing my food I have learned what serving sizes look like and it was the reality check my eating habits needed. Unfortunately it got to the point where I felt like I had to weight everything, all the time. This is unrealistic unless you plan on busting out the scale at restaurants, and it’s a habit that can eventually turn unhealthy. Learn how to “eyeball” it and only use the scale if it’s really needed.