Michelle Obama’s flawed plan to make us thin

Posted May 15, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: Diets, fat loss, Food, General Discussion, General Health, Lifestyle

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

First Lady Michelle Obama’s campaign against child obesity is too poorly constructed to work

Every First Lady adopts a cause during her years in the White House, presumably to keep her occupied while her husband is trying to fix the ills of the world and our country. The causes these women take up are important to society and largely apolitical. Nancy was anti-drugs, Barbara hand her hands full fighting illiteracy, Hillary had healthcare, Laura had George (kidding! Sort of) and reading, and Michelle has taken on childhood obesity. They’re all worthy causes and it’s nice to have someone taking the lead on them.

Let’s face it, as a nation, we’re fat. Very, very fat. So fat that the idea of charging people for 2 seats on a plane is actually in the national discussion. It’s good to see someone so prominent and with such a platform taking the reins on this issue and trying to make a difference. But there’s one problem with Michelle’s general strategy:  it’s flawed.

The program, called “Let’s Move,” focuses heavily on awareness, education, and access—hallmarks and staples of any movement. In theory, it’s a great plan. In practice, not so much. After reading some of the program highlights and seeing it recapped on local and national newscasts, it struck me that Michelle’s plan won’t have much of an effect at all for three primary reasons:  it’s inaccessible to large portions of the population, it’s too generalized, and the information driving the plan is faulty.

It’s Not Accessible
When you ask any normal family why they don’t cook “healthier” meal options more often, you’re likely to hear that it’s too time-consuming, too expensive, or they don’t know how . And while I’m loathe to accept those as viable excuses, the reality is that, by and large, for a lot of American families it’s true.  With work, family, and general life obligations, cooking for a family of 3, 4, 5 –19 if your last name is Dugger–can take up a lot of your evening, especially if the tastes of your family vary as greatly as they do in mine.

More importantly, there’s validity to the argument that it’s too expensive. I’m lucky enough to live in Colorado, where health- and environmental consciousness are top of mind and the options for moderately-priced, whole,  organic food are nearly unlimited. But it’s not that way in all parts of the country, especially in my native Midwest. Fact is, sometimes it *is* cheaper to feed your family a meal at a fast food restaurant than it is at home and the primary reason in my eyes is that the government has too heavily subsidized agribusinesses and mass food producers.

In the past–and still in a growing number of places around the country–local farmers were the lifeblood of the local economy. They made their living by feeding the local hamlets, towns, and cities.  But subsidies for large agribusinesses like ADM and Conagra (and ostensibly for huge retailers like Walmart) have made it virtually impossible for the local farmers to compete. The result is that for much of the past generation, families have been unable to afford healthier, locally-grown whole foods and rely more heavily on cheaper, mass-produced and mass-processed foods for sustenance.

Mrs. Obama’s action plan seems to assume that by simply educating parents and families on how to choose better food options will suddenly make them more available to more people. In reality, perhaps a first step in the “Let’s Move” movement should be to shift some, if not all, of those federal subsidies back to the local growers who take the time to plant and cultivate whole, fresh, and frequently organic goods so that they can keep market prices affordable for the average (and probably unemployed) American family.

The plan lacks specificity
The key to any action plan is that it has, well, action items. These are for the most part very specific agenda items that must be accomplished in one order or another for the plan to succeed. And while Obama’s plan does include some great general suggestions–essentially, eat less, move more–it relies too much on macro ideas than micro ones.

Just like there isn’t a single job that’s suitable for everyone, nor is there a diet that works for all people (feel free to insert any other comparison you’d like), there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to making American kids un-fat. Yet,  the plan proposes to use a one-size-fits all model for determining if a kid is too fat or not. Among the many recommendations put forth to solve our fat kid problem, there’s one that angers me to no end. BMI.

BMI–or Body Mass Index–is a comparison between a person’s weight (mass) and their height used to loosely determine a person’s  “fatness” or “thinness.” Developed originally in the early-mid 1800s, BMI is an adequate tool for determining the relative status of large populations, meaning it’s ideal if you’re an anthropologist or sociologist. Unfortunately, they’re not the ones battling the obesity problem on the front lines on a daily basis.

The formula has been widely shunned as inappropriate for individual diagnosis, especially in a 1972 paper published by noted scientist Ancel Keys. Using BMI on an individual basis is dangerous. At 5’7 and roughly 179lbs, my BMI suggests that I am grossly overweight, bordering on obese. Yet, more individualized metrics like body fat percentage shows that I’m a pretty fit 15%.  I have a thick frame and carry around a fair amount of lean muscle. But according to Obama’s tool of choice, I’m just part of a growing problem.

For the average American who may not be as well versed in health and fitness facts vs. fiction as you or me, this can lead to a dangerous combination of misinformation and anxiety. Tell a perfectly healthy, athletic 16 year-old girl that she’s borderline obese and you’re planting the seed for an eating disorder. Tell a 15 year-old inactive male that he’s perfectly fine even though he’s dangerously skinny-fat (no lean muscle, high body fat composition, but looks “skinny”), and you’re promoting the continuation of a lifestyle that very well could lead to heart disease or a number of other maladies down the road.

And even with all that, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the plan aims to educate physicians–particularly pediatricians–to begin regularly measuring a child’s body mass index and identify a weight problem early. If a child is getting heavy, the physician can write an official prescription for healthy, active living (italics mine). Anyone see a problem with this?

We already know that this obesity epidemic can really only be addressed and solved at the individual level, yet the plan focuses  heavily on using BMI as a primary data source for identifying people who need help. Trying to address a micro problem at a macro level seems to me irresponsible at best.

The Intelligence Is Faulty
Remember back in the early 2000s how Colin Powell’s character was publicly assassinated for relying on faulty intelligence about WMD to determine whether or not we should invade Iraq? Well, political opinions notwithstanding, Mrs. Obama is setting herself up for a similar fate in the war on fat.

One of the centerpieces of “Let’s Move” is to make smarter, better choices when it comes to food. And for good reason. Most of the people I know who’ve achieved changes in their body composition and improved health (mine included), started with making wiser choices when it came to what and how much was on their plate. Obama’s plan is well-meaning, but poorly executed. Bad information leads to bad decisions, and the Let’s Move initiative is based heavily on not just bad, but terrible, information.

School lunches will be a critical focal point for “Let’s Move” over the course of the next decade. According to the White House, more than 30 million kids participate in the National School Lunch Program and “Let’s Move” is planning to invest heavily to improve the quality of the school lunch and breakfast programs, increase the number of kids participating, and ensure that schools have the resources they need to facilitate program changes. On the surface, this is a good thing.  But Michelle’s choice of partners is cause for concern.

It’s really hard to get behind any initiative powered by the FDA and USDA. Asking these two agencies to solve our problems with food is akin to asking the oil companies to get us off oil and onto renewable energies.

With people like Mark Sisson, Loren Cordain, Barry Sears, and even Jaime Oliver doing some groundbreaking work in the area of diet and getting real results for people, I find it hard to comprehend why Michelle would rely so heavily on career bureaucrats to help push her agenda forward and not look to alternative sources of information for ideas.

While the aforementioned diet experts may have many disagreements on particular aspects of their plans, they generally agree on the idea that the government is way behind on the science of food and how it has played such a major role in putting us in the predicament we’re currently in. Keep in mind that until recently, the USDA and FDA are the same organizations that told us to consume between 6-11 servings per day of breads, cereals, and pastas. Even in the face of mounting evidence and study after study showing that consuming too many refined carbohydrates can lead to massive weight gain, it still took them roughly 30 years or so to make any adjustments to their valued food pyramid.

Sometimes, in order to achieve radical results, you have to make radical changes. And it’s curious to me why in such a desperate attempt to change the course of the health of our country, Obama and “Let’s Move” would continue to use the same faulty information as the basis for change.

If the First Lady and her movement really want to leave their mark on such a hot button issue, they’d likely be better served by revisiting and re-evaluating their plan and adjust it to match the reality of our times. Changing the course of eating ourselves to death means more than just making better choices, it also means having better choices. And having those choices can only come from having new, inventive ideas of how to accomplish the goal. Relying on giant food producers, generic body composition metrics, and antiquated food science isn’t moving the country toward our goal, it’s moving us backward. And I’m fairly confident that’s not what she had in mind when “Let’s Move” was created.

A weekend like no other: RKC

Posted April 25, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: General Discussion, Goals, Kettlebells, Weights, Workouts

Tags: , , , ,

This wasn’t the RKC I expected. It wasn’t the one I’d hoped for either. But somehow, it turned out to be the one I needed…and deserved. My flight on Thursday was delayed due to bad weather, perhaps an omen for my weekend to come. Late on Thursday night, I finally arrived in St. Paul and was able to attend the latter half of the meet and greet. I met the man himself, Pavel, and my team leader, Andrea Du Cane–aka The Goddess (she has a workout named after her).

I was tired when I arrived, and nervous as hell. There wasn’t a candidate among us who wasn’t.  Thursday night I hardly slept; I was dreading the morning to come with the vaunted RKC snatch test. When Friday morning arrived, we were chauffeured to the community center which was to be our home for 28 of the next 72 hours. We picked up our packets and met our team leaders in person. My team–from initial impression–was gonna be pretty awesome, with the exception of one old guy from NY. We had some strong guys who’d trained with the Iron Tamer, Dave Whitley, and some gorgeous girls who came from some Iowa gym. Emily was everyone’s favorite. She was amazing…I digress. Of course, when we paired off into partners, I got stuck with old guy from NY who’d learned his kb technique by reading…no formal instruction. My work would certainly be cut out for me, as I was responsible not only for my own technique and work, but his as well.

Friday came in like a lion. After breaking into our teams, we lined up to take the renowned RKC snatch test (100 kb snatches at 53lb in 5:00). The first group came and went and passed. As did the second. The 3rd group had one guy not pass, some little kid–maybe 150lb.–from NC. Then it came down to some other guy and me. By 75 reps I was spent. My cadence and pace were god awful out of the gate. I’d hoped like hell that the difference in altitude would provide me with the boost I needed, but to no avail. By rep 85, I was not only winded, but also feeling dizzy, lightheaded, and barely able to keep control of my eyes, which I think is a precursor to passing out. Like any responsible person–or normal one under threat–I dropped the bell and called it a day.

I was absolutely furious. Anyone that knows me knows just how much I hate losing and how it sticks with me forever. For much of the rest of the morning, I brewed and stewed about it. I went about the rest of the workouts from rote, relying on what I’d learned from my instructor back home to get me by while I continued to fume about my failure. Somehow, I survived the rest of the day. I was beaten mentally and physically, my hands were sore, my pride all but destroyed. And then it got worse….

Some of my fellow candidates and I headed out for dinner later that evening. We’d arrived at the hotel around 7:30, to the restaurant by 8 and home by 9:30 in attempt to get some sleep before a 7:20am shuttle and a lonnnnng day with Pavel and co. Only, I didn’t sleep. Instead of the 8 hours of sleep I’d hoped for, I spent much of the night vomiting my dinner and fighting chills and sweats. In all, I may have slept a total of 2 hours.

Somehow I made it to the shuttle on time. And a couple of my team members asked how I was feeling, noting that I looked like complete garbage. I told them how my night went and somehow, someway, it made it’s way to my team leader. After our early morning workout–throughout which I was on the verge of vomiting again…and actually did immediately afterward–I was approached by both my TL and Pavel and told that they were concerned that my current status was related to previous heart issues and that I’d be on restriction for the remainder of the day. While my fellow RKC candidates were working hard, doing 20 swings every 20 mins, and setting personal records in the strict press, I was relegated to work with no more than a 16kg (35lb.) bell, which is something I’d ordinarily warm up with.

It was a crushing blow to my ego, seeing my fellow candidates participating in every drill to the fullest of their lifting/swinging ability, while I was confined to minimal work. I felt like a slacker, a laggard, and it seriously damaged my self view and the value of my own abilities. I was being told incessantly that my symptoms were probably related to my heart condition, something I strongly disagreed with, as only I know my body. I tried desperately to control my frustration and disappointment, but it was clearly obvious to anyone paying attention that I was devastated. At various points throughout the night, I’d imagined just sleeping in the next day. I figured that after not succeeding with the snatch test AND being restricted in my workouts that my chances for successfully attaining the cert. were all but gone and I should just take advantage of the time to relax and not do anything.  It certainly would have been easier–and more comfortable–to have spent Sunday in my room, sleeping in and awaiting Monday’s departure.

For one reason or another, I stuck it out. It’s likely the fact that I hate failing more than anything, and that by quitting this I’d have committed the ultimate failure to myself. So, I slept minimally (again) on Saturday night, and waited patiently for the shuttle to arrive on Sunday morning. Luckily, I’d done enough work on Saturday afternoon’s goblet squat ladders that my hamstrings were on fire. So not only did I feel like I actually got to participate (I did force myself into several double KB swing drills and GetUp drills since their my favorites), but now I had new reason to feel like I was pulling my weight on the team and had something to contribute since I was agonizing right along with them. More importantly, I felt that  RCK certification was in reach.

The Goddess and I determined that Sunday would not be an ideal time to reattempt my snatch test, and that it should be done via videotape after I’ve returned home and recovered. It was a certainty that I would not be leaving MN with my cert. in hand as I’d expected. After a 2 hour marketing dissertation by John DuCane and a Qi Gong warm up, I was determined to bring it on Sunday and perform at a high level. On this day, we were being judged on technique, form, and our ability to teach…and on being able to safely navigate and manage fatigue in the Graduate workout.

Naturally everyone was nervous, and I was no exception. Our team started practice shortly after the seminar, and with 30 mins we were being tested on our technique. Our team leader and her 3 assistants called us up in groups of 3’s and had us execute a set of double kb swings, a set of 2kb cleans and presses, 2 sets of cleans and squats. a GetUp, and a set of snatches. The scrutiny was almost too much for many of us, as several were visibly shaking. I was nervous too. Having so many eyes on you at once and entire certification riding on this was nerve wracking. In fact, I nearly forgot one or two of the steps in my favorite exercise–the getup–because my nerves were going crazy. Luckily, I got through it unscathed and with remarkably solid form.

After the technique assessments were done, we were presented with a new challenge—take an average person off the street (a “victim”) and teach him or her the basics in 40 minutes and then design a 10 min workout for them on the fly. Everyone was nervous, but this is where I felt most comfortable. Although I’d absorbed a lot of information previously, I’d reverted back to the teaching methods of my instructor Hillis to make sure I was getting my points across clearly on the swing and GetUp. And our 10 min workout was a variation of some the interval training I’d been subjected to over the previous months. I was able to make some serious corrections to my victim’s swing and GetUp techniques, even though he’d been training with a local RKC for 4 months. We both agreed that we’d made substantial progress in just a few minutes…and the team leader agreed.

The victims were invited to come watch us suffer through the Grad Workout. What’s the Grad Workout? Take the worst, most devastating workout you’ve had and multiply it by 100. That’s the Grad Workout.  For ours, we hit the field behind the rec center and did an overhead KB walkout with the right arm for half the distance (perhaps 50 yards). The 2nd half was done with the left. Once we reached the other side, we informed that our way back across the field would be done like this:

-5 single arm swings right
-5 snatches right
-5 clean and press right
-5 front squat right
-take 12 steps and switch to left hand

We performed this all the way across the field in succession with not even a single break. Luckily, TL Engum was kind enough to reduce our reps to 4 at some point, while increasing our paces to 14. And then to 3 reps until finished. It was GRUELING, and we all were just pouring sweat. Once finished, we gathered in a huddle around Pavel for our (somewhat) congratulations, and orders to go inside for final evals.

I was nervous about the evals. Was my technique up to par? Am I a good enough communicator to actually teach this? I knew that the snatch test failure meant that I wouldn’t be walking out with the RKC cert in hand, but I if I was solid on all the other parts, I could deal with it since it meant I’d only have to show later on that I can actually pass the snatch test to get my certification.

My teammates and candidates from other teams who’d I’d made friends with all expressed how proud of me they were. Not because of how I performed, but because I was able to control my frustration in the face of adversity, persist, and succeed where others may have quit. There were at least 20 times over the weekend where I could have quit. But, as my team leader the Goddess told me, I have the fighter’s mentality and quitting just isn’t what I do…especially when it’s something I love.

Luckily, I scored high marks on technique and on coaching–for which I actually received some rave reviews. The weekend of torture had finally ended. My hands were torn, my hamstrings tighter than a clenched fist, and my ego bruised beyond belief. Somehow I emerged with a greater understanding of kb training techniques and of being able to accomplish proper work with lesser weight. Mostly importantly, I came away with a new understanding that sometimes strength isn’t about how much you can lift, but rather how much you can endure–not only in physical pain, but in mental stress and in frustration with limitations placed upon you. It wasn’t the RKC I’d imagined–the one where I blew through the snatch test and navigated my way through all the other drills and tests as a candidate should. And it’s almost certainly not the RKC that others had experienced. It was, however, MY RKC, and I’m God-damned proud of what I’ve done.

I left with one requirement: videotape myself passing the RKC snatch test and send it in for validation. At that point, my cert will be official and complete.  And then I can say “Veni, Vici, Vidi”…. I came, I saw, I conquered.

The Time Has Come

Posted April 21, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: General Discussion, Goals, Kettlebells, Lifestyle, NASM, Weights, Workouts

Tags: , , , , ,

At some point in the last year I decided I didn’t like where things in life were going. In particular, I finally figured out after multiple years working in business that I may not ever be happy with a job in the corporate world. I also wasn’t happy with my physique, my health, or my training regimen.

Sometime shortly after this realization, I ran into RKC II Josh Hillis and was introduced to Russian kettlebell training. Yeah, I’ve already rehashed this scenario, but stick with it….

Within a few weeks of beginning the training, I realized I’d finally found something outside of professional sports that I loved. I realized that with the results I was getting, the way I felt physically and emotions, that if I were ever to find myself unemployed, I’m pretty sure non-stop KB training is what I’d be doing to pass the time till I found another gig.

After a little investigating, some Q&A, and general daydreaming, I decided that it was time to take my ship in a different direction. I set multiple goals to achieve over the course of the year. The first, obviously was to get into better shape and in better health. Within 6 months of beginning my training, I’d lost about 15lbs of fat, shredding my body fat percentage by a full 5%.

The next goal was to seek certification as a personal trainer, something I accomplished at the end of February after months of studying. Though I’ve done nothing with the cert just yet (don’t worry, I will. I’ve just been waiting to accomplish goal #3 before moving on it), it was still a pretty proud accomplishment and represented a huge step in a new direction (not to mention that it gave me a fall back option were I to ever hypothetically find myself unemployed. I’m still employed, don’t worry).

The last–and seemingly least attainable–goal on the list was to register for, attend, and achieve my RKC certification. So, here I am, posting this blog entry the night before I leave for Minnesota for the 3 day workshop. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous as hell. And even though I’ve been training for a solid 8 months or so, forgive me for being a bit wary and under confident. After all, the RKC has roughly a 65% fail rate on account of it being 3 days of 8 hours of workouts. In short, it’s effin’ hard. So anyone coming in overconfident about how well they’ll do will surely get cut down to size a bit.

Doubts aside, I’m almost in denial that RKC is already here and that I’m going. For so long it seemed like just a pipe dream. And now, it’s in 2 days. I can’t help but mentally pass over the blisters, the sweat, the unending torture and fatigue and start imagining what it’ll be like to be one of only a couple thousand people in the world with such a designation (A:  kettlebells aren’t that super popular yet and B: as mentioned, this cert. is effin’ hard!).

More importantly, it’s likely that should I pass, I’m almost certain to be the first–and only–RKC to have achieved the certification after surviving two heart attacks.  That would certainly be a feather in my cap, a story to tell, and one helluva source of pride for me. It’s the perfect illustration of the tattoo I’m planning to get if and when I achieve certification:  Succisa Virescit, “When cut down, it grows back stronger.” That is exactly what this whole thing is about, and I’m determined that get it.

I will try my best to tweet and blog from RKC. Assuming I have any energy left after the day’s workout (or any skin and dexterity remaining in my hands to type), I’d love to give everyone a bit of insight as to what the RKC experience is all about. From others’ stories, it’s not *only* about suffering. It’s about camaraderie, ongoing education and continuous improvement, and learning how to teach others to change their lives by safely using an ancient, basic tool of fitness.

I’m certainly looking forward to this. And if I’m lucky enough to achieve goal #3, I’ll consider this past year to be among the best, most productive, and most prideful of my life. Now the time has come…I’m ready to bring it.

7 Minute Kb Snatch Workout

Posted March 23, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: Uncategorized

So, last week I told you about a goal-specific training protocol recommended to me by RKC II Cecilia Tom. The basic premise is that since I need to be ready to do 100 kb snatches with a 53lb. kettlebell in 5:00, I need to train myself to withstand that kind of intensity. It makes perfect sense now that I think  about it.

The prescription calls for starting with 6 snatches ever 30 seconds for 7 minutes, eventually scaling back to 5:00 to meet the goal.. However, I’m using a 55lb. kettlebell instead of 53, and I found on my first attempt that I couldn’t do 6. I started with 4 every 30 seconds, instead, but only for the first 3 days. The next two days, I did 5 reps, until I built up to 6, which is my standard for this week. Each week, I need to be able to add another rep per 30 seconds until I’m doing 10 reps, which is 20 per minute, and equals 100 per 5:00…exactly the goal of the RKC Snatch Test.

So, after the first week how do I like this training program? In a word: HATE. Seriously, who could imagine that a 7 minute workout could be SO brutal? My lungs absolutely hate me, and my legs are left quivering after each session. But, I’m definitely feeling improvement. Really. Each time, I feel less and less like puking, which has to be a good sign, right?

In addition to snatching literally everyday, the Evil, Twisted, Super-Strong Asian also wants me to develop a more powerful hip snap by doing single arm swings with a super heavy kettlebell. So what did I do? I went out and bought a 36kg (80lb.) bell. Supposedly, I need to be able to swing this thing to eye level. It makes complete sense: if you can swing an 80lb. bell to eye level, you should easily be able to swing a 53lb. one overhead. But since I’ve never even attempted a 2 hand swing at this weight, I think eye-level 1 arm swings might be a longer term goal than a shorter term one. I’ll be happy if I can do it by the time RKC rolls around at the end of April.

It’s weird, as much as I hate this training regimen,  I know it’s working. Yes, I’m tired and sore more than ever, but at the same time, I can feel my movements getting more efficient and my body getting stronger. Just have to keep it up, remain dedicated, and know that it’ll all be over soon. This too shall pass.

Swing hard and bring it!

A new strategy for the RKC Snatch Test

Posted March 16, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: Goals, Interval training, Kettlebells, Weights, Workouts

Tags: , , , , , ,

For anyone dreaming of attending the Russian Kettlebell Challenge and achieving the instructor certification, chances are you’ve been in the exact spot I’m in now:  staring blankly in the face of the RKC Snatch Test and Grad Workout. It can be assumed that you strategized and agonized over how to pass the vaunted Snatch Test, devising irrationally complex workout plans or creating simple, high-volume exercises instead.

For the past few months–ever since I plunked down the cash to reserve my spot in the April RKC–I’ve been scheming about how to pass both tests, and pass them each with flying colors. My first thought was to simply attend more kettlebell bootcamp classes with my trainer. I figured that he kicks my ass well enough as it is, so if I just went more often, I’d build the strength and endurance necessary. But going from 2-3 classes a week to 4-5 plus my individual workouts was a recipe for overtraining and for disaster.

The plan evolved into something a bit less intense, but equally as daunting:  attend 4 classes per week (2 classes on both Tuesdays and Thursdays) and then do various snatch-related workouts the other 4 days, leaving one day of rest. The individual workouts would go something like this:

-Day 1, snatch test (goal: 100 reps @25kg/55lb in 5:00)
-Day 2, Walking snatches and swings
-Day 3, Volume day–100+ snatches @25kg, no time limit
-Day 4, High volume workout: 10 snatches, 10 reps of another exercise, 10 more snatches. Repeat until 100 snatches are complete

Theoretically, this could work. I’d get used to doing 100 snatches at my goal weight, and I’d have 1 day a  week built in to assess my progress. But the workouts are long, and are focused too heavily–upon second glance–on volume, instead of on power, speed, and 5 minute-long endurance. I attempted my first snatch test at 25kg last night and fell woefully short of my goal. I managed a meager 66 reps in 5:00, and struggled through the last 10 or 15 of them. It was disheartening, it was hard on my hands, and it was exhausting–both physically and mentally.

Now, keep in mind that this protocol was assigned to me by a Level 2 RKC, someone for whom I have the utmost respect. I view him as an expert, as my mentor even, and so I’m inclined to take his word over others’ when it comes to matters of training.

But in this instance, I figured there had to be another way; something different. Maybe even better. The beauty of services like Twitter and Facebook is that you can connect with people who have similar interests and backgrounds as you without having to meet them face to face.  On a whim, I contacted another RKC II that I “know,” having connected with her over the aforementioned media, and asked her opinion on training specifically for the RKC. She came up with an equally creative, 6 or 7 day regimen, but one that was markedly different from the path I’d been on previously.

Her recommendation is aimed at developing the power, strength, and endurance needed only for the 5 minutes of the Snatch Test which, after all, is what I’m training for.  Keep in mind that I’ve never actually met this person, so it’s difficult for me to equate my respect for her methods with the respect I have for my own trainer, whom I see at least twice a week. But her regimen made sense in my mind, and so I’m doing something completely out of character for me and taking a leap of faith to give it a go. So, for the next 36 days or so, I’ll be doing the following:

-6 snatches @ 25kg every 30 seconds, for 7 minutes. Each week, I’ll add another repetition. So week 2 (supposedly) will feature 7 snatches every 30 seconds, until I can do 8-9 reps every 30 seconds. At that point, I’ll drop the total time down to 6:30, then 6:00, and finally 5:00, doing 10 reps every 30 seconds to equal 100 reps in 5:00
-3 days per week, I’ll add in heavy 1 hand swings. I’m buying either a 32kg or 36kg bell–whichever is available at my local supplier–and do 60 swings, alternating 10 L/R. Each week I’ll add 5 swings per hand for a total of +10, working my way up to 100 single arm swings at 32kg or 36kg.

My hope is that this will work; that this will train me specifically to generate the most power, the most force, and provide me with just enough stamina and strength endurance to successfully complete the RKC Snatch Test. Then, I suppose, I’ll just close my eyes, cross my fingers and hope that I can make it through the Grad Workout. :-)

Swing hard and bring it. :-)

The Blog Still Lives

Posted March 15, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: Diets, fat loss, General Discussion, Goals, Kettlebells, Lifestyle, NASM, Weights, Workouts

Tags: , , , , , , ,

It feels like damn near an eternity since I’ve written anything. Actually, come to think of it, it has been nearly an eternity since I’ve written anything. But hey, gimme a break, I’ve been busy. In case you were wondering, here’s what’s been going on in life since my last F2F post:

-Passed the NASM Certified Personal Trainer exam
-Spent weeks house hunting
-Begun doubling up on kettlebells bootcamp classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays
-Contracted on a house and have been battling through the mountains of paperwork, exercising more patience than I’ve shown in my nearly 31 years on Earth
-Been inundated with work at my big boy job
-Completely lost control of my diet
-Held minor discussions with my trainer about absorbing some business
-Begun to worry about actually getting my RKC certification

So that’s been my last several weeks. What lies ahead now? Take a look:
-Getting my diet back on track
-Moving my ish into my new house at the end of the month
-Training feverishly for RKC
-Snatching 4 days a week until I build up to the required 100 reps in 5:00 at 53lbs.
-And just this week someone asked me about my recovery/rehab programs after my heart attacks.

So, it looks like I have a few things to blog about in the coming weeks. Just like my diet, I think it’s something I should commit myself to, if for no other reason than to keep me sane.

Swing hard, and bring it!

Advocating Illness

Posted February 16, 2010 by Scott Stransky
Categories: Diets, fat loss, Food, General Discussion, General Health, Goals, Lifestyle

Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s been a super busy couple of weeks for me. Between work, working out, studying and house hunting, I’ve had little time for blogging. But there have been a few news items in the past week that have caught my attention, and one in particular has compelled me to desperately find the time to bang out a quick post.

Kevin Smith, the semi-famous actor/director/screenwriter (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, etc.) was recently removed from a Southwest Airlines flight essentially for being too fat to fly. It’s been an ongoing debate in recent years, what to do with overweight flyers as Americans’ waistlines and assess get collectively fatter with each passing year. Being removed from the plane or relocated to another seat or charged more to fly for being overweight or obese isn’t really a new thing. Southwest, in fact, has had a policy of some sort in place for 25 years or so. And if this hadn’t happened to a moderately well-known person, it wouldn’t even be news at all.

Smith has taken to Twitter and Youtube to outwardly protest his treatment. And this isn’t news either. What IS newsworthy—and just a touch shocking—is the ally Smith has in his fight:  The National Association for the Advance of Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). Yup, until last night, I didn’t even know there was such a group. And now they’re on a deathmarch in defense of sedentary lifestyles, poor eating habits, and general ill health.

NAAFA (www.naafaonline.com/dev2/), if you’re unfamiliar, is a non-profit organization who’s “goal is to help build a society in which people of every size are accepted with dignity and equality in all aspects of life.” While civil equality was, is, and always will be an admirable goal, NAAFA misses its mark by a mile.

In the wake of the Smith incident, the organization has been quite vocal about how this situation underscores the mass prejudice being perpetuated upon the bigger members of our society; how fat people are discriminated against in the workplace and now, evidently, in commerce. No doubt, there is prejudice of all kinds going on at all times. So discrimination against fat people shouldn’t really come as a shock. Ordinarily, this would be a pretty bland non-issue. But what has lit a fire under me and ignited just a touch of rage in this instance comes from an interview conducted with NAAFA spokesperson last night by ABC’s Nightline.

It’s not surprising that the organization is firmly behind Smith in this case, and is rallying to his defense. What I found most appalling was that in the interview, the spokesperson told Nightline’s John Donvan “you can’t make fat people thin. It’s impossible.” She went on to cite how many dieters fail at their diets and put the weight back on. This is a clearly defeatist attitude, symbolic of people who’ve tried the latest, hottest fad diets or fad workouts, failed, and have simply given up. It’s the mentality that if you try once or twice and fail, then there are no alternative solutions. “Woe is me, nothing can work. This is who I am and who I’m meant to be.”

Nevermind that there is an entire industry—one which I’m planning to join shortly—devoted to doing just what the spokesperson says cannot be done, why continue trying to better your life or the lives of those around you, when  you can simply give up and create a foundation or non-profit organization to spare your feelings of shame or failure?

There are certainly medical exceptions where  no matter what the person does, no change can or will occur. But studies have shown that as much as 75% of the American population doesn’t participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise even 4 days a week. Worse, given how many supposed diet “gurus” are out there to add to the confusion, I’d bet that 90% of the population also has no idea how to eat well. There shouldn’t be any plausible explanation or excuse for ignorance or pure laziness. Failing to take care of yourself doesn’t deserve a foundation, nor does it deserve sympathy, special civil status, and it certainly should not cast you as a victim.

The organization claims that discrimination against overweight American’s causes mental and physiological illness. In part, they’re correct. Only, they fail to recognize that these conditions aren’t the result of harsh words, degrading looks, or extensive (and to NAAFA, conspiratory) advertising. Rather, the mental and physiological negative effects they talk about are brought on by the behaviors of individuals they represent. Sedentary lifestyles, poor nutrition, lack of knowledge about health and fitness are all commonly known and understood causes of obesity and weight gain. Instead of identifying these factors and providing a useful educational resource, NAAFA focuses on the victim mentality; that being fat and unhappy is the result of others’ words, actions, and opinions.  In essence, the organization is tacitly endorsing laziness and, ostensibly, illness as they focus on  providing overweight individuals with convenient excuses rather than resources to become healthier AND still love themselves.

A quick review of the NAAFA website supports my claim. Throughout the site, a reader will encounter words like “victim,” “acceptance,” “bullying” and “discrimination.” One will also encounter calls to become involved in lobbying lawmakers to add obesity to the list of groups protected by anti-discrimination laws and also to lobby healthcare organizations to rewrite the rules of healthcare policies to suit obesity. However, there is not a single  mention about the importance of proper nutrition or exercise.

NAAFA is doing a great disservice to the people it purports to represent. Instead of empowering people to take control of their lives and learn to accept who they are while striving to improve their health, the organization is arming America’s obese with a convenient excuse to exact sympathy. By enabling the victim mentality, NAAFA is disarming its constituency of the tools that very well could get them un-fat:  knowledge and encouragement.

Discrimination is real. But true discrimination and prejudice is most often forced upon those with no control over the situation. Race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation are all sources of real discrimination and none of the 3 can effectively be changed. Obesity, on the other hand, can be changed and is largely under the control of the individual.

Except in extreme circumstances of illness such as hypothyroidism—which is easily treated with medications—the determining factor between fatness and fitness is choice. You can choose to make a change or you can choose to be fat.  You can choose to exercise or choose to stay on the couch. Choose to educate yourself or remain ignorant of nutrition and how what you eat directly affects your health. NAAFA is taking away that choice from America’s obese and substituting it with a bunch of self-loathing drivel derived from their leadership’s own problems with self-image and discipline.

If NAAFA wants to be taken seriously as an advocacy group, then it’d best make more of an effort to act like an advocacy group. The greater part of advocacy is education and for its lack of educational resources and efforts,  NAAFA gets a big fat F.


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