Saturday, January 19, 2008

How does one introduce Krista of Stumptuous? From my Internet point of view she's a wild women who can write like Cyber Fire! Her website is loaded with fitness information. Which may paint a picture of another boring fitness information site that you have to trudge through to find that golden nugget that your looking for...not so at stumptuous. Krista has the amazing ability to convey humor and wit over cyber space...Sweet Jesus there is a goddess!

Folks this is my first attempt ever at a interview. The questions being asked are not all my own. They came from a group of women here locally in the DC area. Thank you Andrea, Adrienne and Karen to name a few. I've mixed your questions into the batch to spice it up a little;)!

Jen: If you had to pick five exercises as your "desert island" exercises- meaning they're the only five you could do for the rest of your life- what would you choose and why?

Krista: Sandbag stair carries - probably the most functional thing in existence, and hits everything you have. Helpful for burying bodies and wife carrying races.

Sledgehammer swings - in case you ever find yourself on a chain gang; also
works just about every muscle there is. Gives wicked core strength. Plus it looks cool, or crazy.

Squats -'cause nothing satisfies like the thwack of your butt hitting
your calves, and the knowledge that 99% of people are doing this one like wimps.

Sprints - have you ever seen sprinters' butts? Do I need to sell these any more? Gets you fast AND lean, which are two great tastes.

Pullups - you just never know when you might be hanging off a cliff; in the meantime build a back big enough to land a 747.

Jen: How does menopause effect working-out? Do you know anything about this?

Aside from a possible line on some "replacement" testosterone, winkwink,
menopausal training is a lot like premenopausal training. One of the big
issues for women as they age is heart disease; estrogen appears to have a protective effect, and as the endogeneous production declines the risk of
CVD goes up. Thus exercising with CV health in mind is key as women age.
Insulin sensitivity is correlated with CV disease risk, so managing insulin levels is important.

Another important goal for postmenopausal training is bone density, which
means incorporating load-bearing and if possible impact-based elements.
Bones need to be loaded along their length, as in a squat, and ideally there is also some impact in moderate amounts. Now, the square-ass ageist
trainers of the world will probably hand the average 60 year old woman a 2
lb dumbbell and tell her not to hurt herself, or send her to a nice gentle yoga class. Personally I'd rather see the ladies running, jumping, and
punching things. We know, for example, that judicious use of plyometrics
provides a stronger stimulus for bone remodelling than just about any
other movement. A trainer I used to know would have his older clients in
Japan smack a wooden mallet into a barrel of rice for a few long sets,
which always struck me as both satisfying and therapeutic.

As people age, their balance and overall mobility decline. It's essential
to retain functional movement for daily life and prevent falls. A hip
fracture in a 30 year old is horribly painful but not life-threatening; a hip fracture in a 75 year old can be a death sentence. Any routine for an
older person should focus on daily-life, integrated movements: hauling
loads in and out of awkward positions, climbing stairs, gripping things,
moving when balance is challenged, etc. Obviously this isn't such a
concern for, say, a 50 year old, but the "use it or lose it" principle
applies -- the sooner you start, the better you retain it.

Finally, there's no reason why older women should accept immobility and
fat gain. Sure, gravity gets the better of us all, but much of "normal"
aging is simply disuse. One can stay relatively lean and fit at any age
simply with careful nutrition and regular training. Adjust goals upwards
and don't accept the status quo -- my 82 year old osteoporotic grandmother hiked 2.5 hours a few days ago.

Jen: What kind of carry over do you get from being fit. As in do you see how it's made a difference in your work life/home life?

It's hard to say where the boundary is. I don't think it's an
overstatement to say it's changed my life. It's changed my whole physical
experience of living in my body and being out in the world, and my whole
concept of who I am, and what's important to me. I was trying to figure
out why I enjoyed BJJ so much, aside from the fact that it's a good
workout and a fun mental puzzle. My coach pointed out that BJJ is one of
the few sports that truly unifies all the aspects of oneself: physical,
mental and emotional. The physical demands are obvious and varied, but
there is also the mental component of strategy, planning and learning; and
the emotional component of learning not to freak out when you're being
crushed or choked by someone.

But many challenging physical activities are similar to some degree. You
have to learn to be scared or insecure about it, and do it anyway. You
have to learn to try new things and new ways of moving your body. You end
up with a sense of confidence and "body partnership" -- that you and your
body are working together rather than in opposition.

Jen: What are some creative ways you "fit" your workouts into your busy life?

Krista: I like to play "I'm late". This involves pretending to be late and just
rushing from point A to B: scurrying to the bus, running up stairs, etc.
When there isn't snow on the roads I commute to work by bike. When the
weather's crummier I'll often walk home from work, or at least part of the
way. I'm lucky to live in a city so most things are within a 30-45 min
walk. I find ways to get little bits of exercise: I take the stairs; I
rarely drive (I walk, cycle or take transit); I step out at lunch for a
10-min head-clearing constitutional; etc.

I try to train daily even if it's not a perfect opportunity. 10-15 min
here or there adds up. I'm also lucky now to have some stuff in my
basement. Before I moved, I was doing things in about 10 square feet of
space in my living room, trying not to smash the coffee table.

I also prefer to train in the morning. When you train in the morning you
have the benefit of caffeine, and once you're done, you're done. As
motivated as I am, I still can find excuses not to train in the evenings
after I've worked a whole day.

I like circuit training a lot too. It's efficient, gives you variety, an
be a form of interval or cardio training, and you can make it time-based.
Or go for total reps. For example, try 1 full clean every 30 seconds (I
generally use only the clean b/c the jerk grinds my elbows into powder).
Once you hit 50 cleans in total, add weight. If you can do this with 90%
of your bodyweight or more, you are officially a mean motherfucker and
nobody should screw with you. (One of my goals for 2008 is a 100-rep clean
workout. Because it's there.)

Most importantly, I make working out a priority. It's right up there with
food, shelter, subsistence income, basic hygiene and family. It's the only
thing standing between me and certain decrepitude so I take it very
seriously. We all age and we all lose function. You can go out quietly and
get stuck on the john one day, or you can go kicking and screaming all the
way, ending up as the toughest old broad in the retirement home at age
105. No matter how you're starting out: young, old, disabled, pregnant,
chronically ill, whatever -- there is almost no situation that regular
exercise doesn't improve.

Warning: rant ahead. When people say they're "too busy" to exercise and
eat right, I have to throw the bullshit flag. 2006 data shows that
American women spend about 0.19 hours a day on exercise and sports, but
between 2.2 and 2.7 hours a day on watching TV. In fact, TV far outweighs
any other leisure activity -- socializing, reading, etc. So, women are
spending over 10 TIMES MORE HOURS on TV than on their friends/family or
themselves. Now that's screwed up.
(Data here:

Sit down and make a time diary of how you're spending your days. I think
you'd be shocked at how much time you waste. There are 168 hours in a
week. Let's say 50 are for paid employment, 5 for commuting, 56 for
sleeping, 7 for grooming, 20 for domestic tasks like housecleaning and
prepping meals. That's 138 hours. There are 30 hours left. Nuff said.

Jen: How do you get through the days or weeks when you have no motivation?

Krista: I don't rely on motivation very much. I rely on structure and routine, or
making myself accountable to other people. If I don't work out, I feel
like crap and I'll get my ass kicked at my next BJJ competition by someone
who did take the time to train. I plan and prepare so that I don't have
the option to wuss out: I book training sessions with other people; I
schedule time for training; I make my lunches for the week on Sunday; I
pack my clothes (a bodybuilder friend of mine and I like to joke that we
now carry around a spare pair of underwear and deodorant at all times--you never know when you might get sweaty!).

I definitely find that having a plan gives vastly superior results. I fell
off the wagon with having a set training routine over the holidays -- I
stayed active but I felt unfocused and disorganized. Spending 30 min on a
new training spreadsheet got me right back on track. Now I know I have to
go do workout X on day Y, just like I know I have to go brush my teeth
first thing in the morning.

Mike Mahler said recently that successful people do what needs to be done
regardless of how they feel about it. Waiting for workout motivation is
like waiting for creative writing genius to strike. You'll still be in
front of the boob tube a month later, putting in your 2.7 hours a day, and
your Great Novel won't be more than a blinking cursor.

Jen: Have you over trained before? How did that present in your body and life? How did you recover.

Krista: I have never truly overtrained in the most accurate sense of systemic
failure. (Most people never do.) However I have often overreached, and the
usual result was something like tendonitis.

Currently I'm nursing a little owchy from too much front-facing and
scapular-elevating work (Olympic lifting, BJJ, and handstand pushups).
There are a few basic elements to preventing and treating overreaching:

a) Catch it early, and don't be a hero. In the past I'd just soldier on
through pain. That's stupid. Now, I know what it feels like to have my
body working at 100%, and I prefer it that way. I'm sensitive to when
things are even a little bit off. I had this shoulder tendonitis for a
couple of weeks, and it was probably about a 2 on a scale of 1 (pain free)
to 10 (arm falling off). After it didn't self resolve I got right on it
and visited my favourite sports med docs. By the way, ART and sports
acupuncture are awesome for just about any soft tissue problem that ails you! I can't say enough good stuff about ART in particular.

b) Make recovery a priority. People eat, train and supplement for
"muscle building" and "fat loss" but rarely for "recovery enhancement". I believe
this is a mistake. First of all, anabolism IS basically optimal or
augmented recovery in a sense, but more importantly if you can't recover
you can't train to your fullest potential. If you aren't recovered then
training becomes a catabolic, rather than an anabolic, stimulus -- it
breaks you down rather than building you up. Sleep, take your MSM,
glucosamine and fish oil, and eat your antioxidants. Don't drop your fat, calories, or
essential nutrients too low. This is especially important for female
endurance athletes but true for anyone with a higher training volume;
there is a risk of subclinical anemia and things like respiratory tract
infections if nutrition isn't enough to meet training demands. Recovery is
systemic, not just local -- in other words, for the muscles in your arm to
recover, your whole body needs to chip in. I basically subsist on good
fats, colourful fruit and veg, and protein sources including lots of fish
and seafood. I have made 8 hours of sleep a priority. As a result my
immune system is rock solid; I rarely get viruses that are going around
and even things like bruises heal more rapidly. (My BJJ team provides a
good control group for this hypothesis.)

c) Cycle your training load, intensity, exercise choices, etc. Think of
overreaching as a dimension that good training seeks to prevent through
its organization. Tom Fahey, one of the great veterans of sports science,
said, "Competing while injured is a training mistake". Conceptualize
overreaching as a training error and adjust accordingly. Think
proactively: if you do a sport consistently you know that certain parts
are going to get overworked and tight, so include some "prehab" in your
program that works on the parts likely to be inhibited and weak, frees up
the restrictions in the tight parts, and generally anticipates problems
before they occur.

d) Bust ass, but leave a little bit in the tank almost every time. If you
keep hammering away at your maxes each workout, you'll eventually pay the
price. If your sport involves lifting heavy, that's great. But you don't
need to test out your 100% at each training session. Training is training-- motor learning, capacity enhancement and skill building -- not all-out
performance, all the time. Many coaches feel that one should save the
maxes for the platform or whatever sporting venue is appropriate. I say
that now and again, a max can help you test your limits and judge
progress, but such things should be relatively rare. If you train at 80%
to 90% capacity, and even have occasions when you do 50%, then you'll
recover more effectively and rapidly -- which means in the long term, your
outcome will be better.

Jen: Do you keep a training log? How and why?

Krista: Oh yes, absolutely. It's essential for fully realizing progress. Unless
you're Rain Man you won't remember all the stuff you need to remember to
stay focused. I have a multi-sheet spreadsheet that tracks the usual stuff
like reps and sets but other things too.

1.Improvement from last workout. I jot down how, if so, I have improved
since the last comparable training session. Did I add weight? A set? Reps?
Did something feel easier? Etc.

2.Goals for next time. Maybe during this session I felt like I could
have done a little bit more but didn't want to exert an all-out maximal
I just make that a priority for next time. Or I have accomplished a goal
and it's time to move on -- ok, I got X reps with Y weight, now let's
start working towards X reps with Y+1. Or maybe those 10 reps felt
pretty hard, so I think next time I'll just stay at that number.

3. Bodyweight. On a short person, a few pounds make a big difference so
I keep a tight leash on this. Also, I may have to make weight for a
competition, although in BJJ the weight classes for women are usually
ridiculously broad because there are still so few competitors, so it's not
usually an issue for me.

4. Minutes per day. I add this to a cumulative total of weekly hours.
This builds on John Berardi's G-Flux concept -- identifying total time spent
per week as a training variable, esp. for body composition.

5. Which workouts go where. I block it all out and colour code different
workout types, so at a glance I can tell what I'll be doing all week.

6. Any notes about how I'm feeling. Is this body part a little achey? Did
I have enough to eat? etc.

7. My period.

Jen: Which brings me to the next question...Working out during your period or while your PMS can be difficult for some women. Some women even feel like they lose a week or more of training. Any advice?

Krista: Many women find that their menstrual cycles affect their training,although the exact effect can vary from woman to woman. I'm not as strong
for a few days when my period starts, so I just factor that in and
schedule lighter training sessions. It's nature's periodization. :) So
let's say you have a week when you know you'll not be at your best --plan
that in as a "deloading" or "active recovery" week.

Another risk, though slight and the evidence for this is mixed, is joint
injury during the premenstrual period. There is some evidence that joint
laxity increases a little bit, and typical injuries include ACL ruptures
and low back injuries, but again, the studies have shown inconsistent
results. Personally, I find that sometimes pain perception is enhanced
premenstrually. I feel the soreness more -- suddenly it feels like I've
been worked over by Laila Ali, even though the achiness might not match my
actual training stimulus. I recognize it as simply an increased
perception, rather than an empirical reality. To some degree many of the symptoms which women find objectionable can be
managed through nutrition. Since I cut out dairy (good ol' age-related
lactose intolerance) and, for the most part, grains, and started trying to
get plenty of fish in my diet, I've noticed a major difference in how I
experience my period. I used to be one of those women who'd live on
Tylenol for a couple of days, cursing my evil uterus as it tried to crawl
out my bellybutton. When I changed my eating I actually had months where I
had no cramps at all. Colour me astonished.

Jen: What are your physical goals for 2008?

Krista: To continue to develop my overall skills in BJJ and to learn some
gymnastic/acrobatic stuff. To stay committed to my active existence
despite life's obstacles. To cycle 100 km in the summer... or more. 100
rep cleans, as I mentioned. To get in the best all-round shape I've ever
been in -- I keep trying to do this and haven't hit my limit yet, so I'll
just keep on trucking and see where it ends up.

Also, to be a ninja, but that's really an ongoing thing.

Jen: What's your biggest training mistake?

Krista: Right now, too much front-facing, scapular elevation work without enough
scapular retraction-depression work. I used to think that pushing :
pulling should be in a 1:1 ratio but I'm coming to believe that given the
habitual movements and postures of desk work it should be something like 1:2.

In the past one of my biggest mistakes has been constantly trying to push
and push and push at the max lifts. You can't do a new 1RM every workout.
You can't even do a new 1RM every month. Get over it.

Also, in the past I've focused too much on the low-rep heavy work. Over
the last few years, since I had a back injury that started with an
overenthusiastic stiff-legged DL and ended with a fall on the ice, I've
come to recognize the importance of endurance-based work for both rehab
and overall conditioning.

But you know, I have to say, all things considered, I've done pretty well
and have stayed relatively sound and healthy.

Jen: There are so many methods of fitness. So many ideas of what fitness is. Everyone thinks their way is the right way. You know all these arguments. Swing a KB this way not that way. Kipping pull-ups are cheating, deadhang pull-ups are the only goes on and on. How do you view, deal this way of thinking?

I say two things:

a) Steal from everyone and everywhere. Yesterday while working takedowns
in BJJ I realized that the principles were the same as ballroom dancing--you lead and follow and shift your weight depending on what your partner
does. The grrls at my next tournament are gonna feel that foxtrot.

b) Use the right tool for the job, Beavis. A hammer is great. A
screwdriver is great. Using a hammer to do a screwdriver's job is kinda
dumb, as is proclaiming the overall superiority of the hammer. Nobody
would try to build a house with just a hammer, so why try to build
physical abilities with just one tool?

Jen: Does working out make your sex life better?

Krista: Yes. Unless you are having sex while bench pressing. This carries a higher risk of sports injury.

Jen: Tell us about your personal workouts, how there going what your doing? What are you experimenting with?

Krista: Right now for me, the biggest priority is building a broad base of
physical abilities -- speed-strength, agility, active flexibility, work
capacity, integrated full-body movements, etc. I like to think that I
could try a new sport at any time rather than having to "get in shape" to even start it. I divide my workouts into A, B, C and D workouts. A are heavy workouts
-either something like a 5x5 protocol or extended "sets" of singles with
the basics: squats, OLs, weighted pullups, etc. B workouts are
speed/agility/conditioning workouts - circuits, something resembling
Crossfit, longer sets or sets focused on explosiveness, etc. Here I choose
exercises such as pushups, jumps, swings, and various other
conditioning-type things. For A and B workouts, I generally organize
them into supersets or circuits, e.g. a squat-push-pull sequence. C is cardio,
mostly short-duration interval-based stuff with one longer session per
week (usually a 5k run). D is grappling skills training, either classes or drilling.

I have 2-3 each of A and B workouts per week; 3-4 C workouts, 4-6 D
workouts. Few workouts are longer than 30 min, except for D which is often
class-based so it can end up being something like 2 to 3 hours long(but in reality, one spends quite a lot of time lying on the floor in BJJ:)).

Thank you Krista for taking the time to do this. Your truly a women of creativity and strength!


Dan Hubbard said...

Great interview! Krista has a great understanding of how different 'tools' or exercises fit into the bigger physical training picture. So many people see an exercise or piece of equipment and base their training on it without an understanding of training principles or how this is going to help or hurt them in the long run. They just want something to make them sore or sweat. Glad to hear Krista providing a greater understanding and hopefully encouraging others to think this way.


Shaf said...


Awesome blog. I'd never noticed it before. Lots of good stuff. Great overview with Krista.


Mark Reifkind said...

Fantastic interview.Krista is a wealth of both great scientific and experiential knowledge. great read.

~The Mighty Kat~ said...

I was wondering when the Great Mistress Krista would make her appearance here. Loved this. Thanks for taking such care with it to do her justice.

Jimmy Clark said...

Does anyone recommend a good body fat scale that is accurate? I saw a post on that was comparing body fat scales to calipers and it said they weren't as accurate… is that true?

Pamela MacElree said...

Nice job Jen, excellent questions. Good to read Krista, thanks!

Diane said...

Wow, thanks Jen and Krista. I have been a fan of Krista's for a long time, as well as reading her posts on supertraining too. This was an awesome read, thanks again!