Any day that begins with spinach and blueberries is going to be a good day. I’ve been thinking this for weeks, and it holds true at 6am on Saturdays. Leaving from midtown Manhattan gave me a view of hundreds of early morning joggers and cyclists as I headed to Newtown, Connecticut for the NSCA Connecticut State Clinic.
Listening to Essentialism on the way led to early morning curiosities, and the beautiful trees in the area made my mind clear. Trenta iced coffee in hand, I arrived at the Newtown Youth Academy. I’ve taken to exploring facilities when I arrive for a taste of their authentic atmosphere, and that I saw at NYA was great. There was a sports performance group warming up, a pick-up basketball game, some intense exercise; think diversity.
I even took a picture of one of their ads to capture the options:
What best demonstrates their diversity is that on one side of the facility we had the NSCA clinic, and on the other side was a 300 person yoga practice! Pretty damn cool to have all of that in one-place. CT State Director Pat Mediate opened the show, and we were off.
Developing a Speed and Performance Program
Mike Ericksen, the Director of Sports Conditioning for Central Connecticut State University started us off with a sprint out the gate to discuss speed and power. Seriously, he was on sprint mechanics 5 minutes in, and it was awesome. Mike took us through the biomechanics of sprinting first, explained the neural necessities of speed programming, then investigated options to implement for all folks.
I appreciated that he regularly reviewed the need for both technique and strength work, so that you move well and create power. Good technique without strength means people move well but slower than their opponents. Strength without technique means we’re not moving as safely or efficiently as possible. Training for speed is about maximal intensity and adequate recovery; it’s not sprinting for conditioning.
How Hormones and Nutrition Dictate Training Protocols
Ali Gilbert of Greenwich DX Sports Lab blew open the body with her talk on how hormones impact health and performance. I’ve seen Ali give a rendition of this talk before, and she packed in even more information. My inner nerd loved it, and it’s all about optimizing our nutrition, training, and hormones so that we can optimize success.
Ali was adamant about ‘assessing’ which means a diagnostic blood test. As she reminded us, “Blood work doesn’t lie.” This makes it a lot easier to make changes when we have hard, unbiased numbers to work with. Ali specifically discussed that high training intensities and inadequate nutrition can hold us back when we’re looking for high performance; low to moderate intensity aerobic work and ample calories can be important.
She touched on the often ignored impact of the menstrual cycle on female training, and how it can greatly influence comfort and capacity while training. Talking about this is important for fitness professionals.
Hormones have the potential to make us sexy… or not. How they influence our body is quite related to what we do to influence them, and it’s important for us to understand, and manipulate when necessary, what’s going on inside our body.
Training the Female Athlete: The Missing Link to Women’s Wellness, Rehab and Injury Prevention
Sarah Hnath gave us an indepth view of the pelvis, discussing pelvic floor dysfunction, incontinence, prenatal and postpartum conditions, running injury and prevention, and many other orthopedic injuries and conditions are specific to women. After taking PRI’s Pelvis Restoration course this was great for helping to synthesize and simplify some complex ideas.
Sarah did a great job of sharing some basic assessments that trainers can use to begin looking at the pelvic floor while staying within scope of practice, and she advised us on how other tests, such as the ASLR can be indicative of other issues. Having several hands on activities within her lecture gave us time to test these out before she clarified and built upon them.
After Sarah presented it was lunch time, and the ~80 person group headed outside for some sandwiches and a steel band. (Remember, there was a yoga festival, too!) For me, this was taking lunch to trouble shoot some AV problems to ensure I would run smoothly. Ali’s partner Mike hooked me up with their projector, and it was smooth sailing.
I like to play Benny Greb’s Brass Band before I present, and on Saturday someone actually recognized it! Thanks for chatting about great drumming, Steve.
Movement: Training Strategies for Lifelong Physical Activity
My passion in training has always been program design, and the most accurate representation of this is to consider it people design. Trainers need to be the people that can create continuous development in their clients lives, and we don’t do this by writing the most bad-ass programs possible. We do this by engaging our clients in the process.
I started by reminding the attendees that we don’t get better by trying a bunch of things on Monday and hoping they work. We get better by on going experimentation from the moment we hear something until we absolutely eliminate that option. I explained that our starting point for movement shouldn’t be about breathing or the Joint by Joint approach; it should be about respecting the Self-Determination Theory and ensuring that our clients and patients are emotionally engaged and ‘in-control’ with what they’re doing.
Being ‘in-control’ can be tricky when we’re thinking about writing programs, but it’s an essential element to long-term development. When we develop self-efficacy and confidence, there’s a much stronger foundation to build from. As I continued to revisit this idea throughout the talk, I reminded the audience to always take a step back. It’s not about deadlifts, clean & jerks, periodization, or whey protein. It’s about being happy.
My single biggest take away was met with some laughter, and I believe that some laughter and edutainment is what we need to make fitness accessible to everybody:
If you’d like more from my talk, you can check out the presentation HERE.
Olympic Lifts for All
Rick Stebbins followed me with a discussion of the benefits of Olympic Lifting. The lecture included video examples, a slide show, in-person demonstrations, and Rick’s strong beliefs about the benefits of Olympic Weightlifting. Two of Rick’s most passionate statements were that “The overhead squat is the single best movement you can train” and that “Abs don’t make a strong back; a strong back makes a strong back.”
While I respect his fervor, I adamantly disagree with both of these statements. The overhead squat may be a personal preference, as he is an Olympic lifting coach and I am not, but I can think of quite a number of exercises that are easier to learn, easier to coach, don’t require mobility that’s likely pathological, and have greater loading potential. For me, the framework of building better people precludes spending 6 months learning to overhead squat without load.
The disavowl to the importance the abs play in spinal stability or integrity also surprised me, considering how much I’ve personally been learning, and the field has come to learn about spinal integrity. For this, I simply offer anything that Dr. Stu McGill has worked on, and concede that there are several ways to get from point A to point B.
Innovative Approaches to Improve Performance and the Personal Trainers Role in Training Youth
Pat Mediate, Kevin Cleary, and Gary Camilo ran us through a great hands-on that included a number of medicine ball, agility ladder, and hurdle drills to develop kinesthetic awareness, agility, and reaction ability.
The unifying factor was the ability to react in a chaotic environment, so that movement can occur reactively. We know that simply throwing a ball, or moving through a ladder is limited if we can’t apply those skills to our sport of choice, so layering complexity helps open us to the potential for better carry over… if we’re moving well.
Kevin specifically reiterated several times that we’re not looking for food speed, or agility, or power. No, we’re simply looking for movement skills that can be practiced over and over so that we’re as efficient as possible. This was perfect to bring us full circle to what Mike started the day with in his in-depth discussion of the balance between power and grace.
The NSCA Connecticut State Clinic was a grand ol’ time. The Newtown Youth Academy was a great space to hold the event, my fellow presenters were passionate about their topics, and the audience was engaged and interactive. It’s a pleasure to be able to share what I’m passionate about with folks who care enough to get out there on a Saturday and learn. We’re getting better together, and that’s what this is all about.