Thursday, December 06, 2007

Up as my first Guest blogger and very good friend we have Tom Brose. Tom is the owner and head coach of Crossfit DC. He is also the manager of City Fitness here in DC. I can't begin to tell you all that I've gleaned from Tom. I asked him to write about what was on his mind. Thanks so much Tom. I for one hear what your saying!

Strength is a Right

In our fitness community, where PRs, CFT Scores and Fran times are lingo de rigueur, we have lost touch with reality. Sometimes we get so caught up in specific modalities of training or technique that we have no understanding of “normal” people. The sad fact is, most people feel that strength is at best a luxury, and in reality unattainable. There are amazing benefits to health, lifestyle and attitude that come with strength, but a majority of Americans have placed this lower on the list of priorities than cleaning their gutters.

When we talk about strength, we need to discuss what that means. A double bodyweight deadlift is great, but in reality not a viable goal for everyone, or a necessity. Being able to pick up a heavy object safely and efficiently is. Olympic weightlifting competitions may not be in your future, but that does not diminish the need to be able to go from standing over an object, to holding it, to putting it overhead. Strength means being able to go through life unencumbered by weakness, not limited by the inability or fear of relatively normal activities. It also builds confidence, not just in its inherent ability, but also in ones discipline and perseverance. Become strong takes hard work, and the accomplishment resonates within.

There are always roadblocks. Several factors come into play stopping even those inclined to put in the work. The absolute worst comes hidden, from those entrusted to help. I’ll let my rage build up and save that for last.

I have to admit, I can be oblivious to peoples situations myself. Browsing the blog of a CFDC regular, I came across an entry talking about her experiences, about a year into CrossFit. She was unsure what to expect when she first contacted me, but was happy to find that I took her desire to get strong seriously. Turns out, she had always wanted to lift. Family, friends and coworkers told her she was crazy, she was too small and it was unrealistic. It never occurred to me that she couldn’t. Our first session she worked with 5 lb. dumbbells. After one year, lots of effort, and a little coaching, she has pull-ups and a deadlift approaching 200 lbs. Take her seriously!

Worse than people who don’t know any better are the “health professionals” who fail to deliver when entrusted. Nothing is worse (at least in this realm) than the personal trainer or physical therapist that hold back the clients success. In fairness, a large chunk of my income comes from personal training, and I have a lot of respect for some therapists. But the standard seems to be stringing people along, with little progress and an endless string of gimmicks. Honestly, I think most trainers don’t have the confidence to teach the squat, deadlift, clean etc. Lacking in integrity, they quickly chalk up basic compound movements as “unsafe”, and continue with 3lb partial ROM side raises standing on one foot. Eventually, the client will pick up an object significantly more than 3 lbs (possibly with both feet on the floor) and be woefully unprepared. I already hinted that this is a pet peeve, so here it is: trainers who fail to get their clients actually strong are not only a waste; they are sabotaging the client’s best intentions. Be ashamed!

Physical therapists fall in the same realm. Their success should be judged by how quickly they get the client out of therapy, not how long they can keep the insurance going. I know, I am bitter about this, but here is why. Its common for me to meet gym members who are in the process of physical therapy, usually from someone eminently qualified because “ he works with the Redskins/ Wizards/ blah blah local sports team”.

Almost always, their specially designed one of a kind program (which any variance from may cause death) looks like this: leg extension, hamstring curl, dead bug, and maybe a resistance tube thrown in. Back, knees, shoulders, whatever the injury, the program is all the same. And the therapists have made sure to warn them not to do anything else, often advising to cancel their gym memberships. Signs of osteoporosis? Stop doing weights and come in to the PT clinic for 15 minutes on the treadmill, billing what, $80-100?

Where are the biomechanically savvy, work out themselves therapists? I went to Kaiser PT, and the therapist had to tip herself sideways to get up from a chair. I want Iron Maven, not a couch potato working on me. Please, therapists, take the time to care!

Strength is not an extravagance, or luxury. It is part of living an active healthy life. It is not something you have to be born with, and it is not a just young persons game. Strength comes from effort, knowledge and dedication. Strength is a fundamental right for everyone.


Catherine Imes said...

Great Guest Blog..Thanks Tom and Jen.

Ironmaven may the be the exception. The Weightlifting and St. Louis Crossfit community is lucky to have her so close.


Tom Brose said...

Jen, thanks for giving me a spot on your amazing blog. I am honored.

Actually, we do have a great PT in our crew, Aileen Chang. She just finished Active Release training, which i need to check out.

Jerry Hill said...

Way to bring it Tom!

Good stuff...

Adrienne said...

Ah men brother!

I wish there were more trainers with this mindset out there. They'd be making much more money and our nation wouldn't be filled with people who think a 30 minute jaunt on the elliptical is a workout.

Russ said...

Good stuff. I admit I am fall into the overly technical elitist crossfit guy who can't relate to normal person stereotype. But if people put half the energy they put into jogging and other forms of cardio into lifting their bodies and even moderately heavy weights, their physiques, health, and fitness would be all much better off. Unfortunately I don't think I'm the one to bring this message to the masses, nor am I sure that they are willing to listen (though perhaps this is due to the effect of all the pro-cardio anti-lifting programming that we all are exposed to.)

aileen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
aileen said...

hey there tom. nice blog...and thanks for the props ;o) its also a petpeeve of mine to see health professionals out and about not practicing what they are preaching (although i could use a little extra stretching myself;o)
as for those therapists not giving good exercise instruction, in an ideal world it'd be aweseome to have a PT teach the basic mechanics and have a trusted trainer work on their post rehab strengthening.