-->

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

 WARRIOR FOR LIFE



The following is an article from the Cortez Journal. 

For the last 25+ years my father, Ollie Whaley, has been teaching weight training as well as coaching on the Navajo Indian reservation. He has been where he is now, in Kayenta, Az at Monument Valley High School for the last 20+ years. Over the last two decades and half he has instilled in many of his Navajo students what we have been trying to promote here through HASKESTRENGTH. The idea of being fit for life and living a warrior lifestyle. 

The Navajo's as a people are often taught in school text books as being farmers and gathers. But real history and text book writing don't always parallel real truth. Anciently the Navajo's ruled the southwest. Navajo land extended from the southern most parts of Arizona and New Mexico up into northern Utah and parts of northern Colorado. Cortez, Co, where this newspaper is located, was in fact some of the Navajo's most prized grazing land (Cortez is no longer Navajo Land). Raymond Locke, who wrote the Book of the Navajo explains the warrior society among the Navajo best when he points out that while many people today revere the Apaches and Geronimo as the scourge of the southwest, what they didn't realize was the Apache were very small in number and size as compared to the Navajo. And historical writers often mistakenly took these marauding Indian warriors of the southwest as Apache when they were in fact actually Navajos. To the Hopi's the Navajo's were known as the "skull crushers." If that does not give you some idea of the fierceness these warriors possessed I don't know what would. 

While most ancient Indian tribes of the Americas had either become extinct or very diminished with the arrival of overseas settlers, the Navajo's remain the largest group of Native American Indians in North America as well as the most established. They fought and survived war with the Spanish, the Mexican's and the Americans. And while ultimately being corralled by the Americans on a reservation spanning the size of the state of West Virginia, they were never really defeated. And today they are still here. 

While many problems have surfaced as a result of the circumstances their ancestors have faced, many Navajo's have found ways to become successful in their new world. And I believe my father has played a major role in helping many of these young Navajo's find courage and re-identify with their warrior culture. It is my hope that HASKESTRENGTH can also play a role in helping to rebuild what was anciently a great warrior society.

7/19/2011 6:00:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
+ click to enlarge
Journal/ Sam Green
Travis Casey flips a 310-pound tractor tire in the Ute Mountain strongman competition Saturday at Towaoc.
Journal/ Sam Green
Ryan Price struggles with placing a 150-pound keg on a flatbed trailer in the Ute Mountain strongman competition.
Strongman gets strong turnout

Bobby Abplanalp
Journal Sports Editor

On Saturday morning, 22 competitors graced the Ute Mountain Recreation Center parking lot to test their strength and will in five events that left themselves fatigued, flabbergasted, yet, triumphant.

A blanket of gray clouds shielded the sky from the scorching Four Corners sun at the inaugural Ute Mountain strongman competition. 

People from all four states showed up to Towaoc to compete in the World's Strongest Man competition format. But it was 36-year-old Frank Jacobs that made the 189-mile trek from Tuba City, Ariz., and left southwest Colorado as Ute Mountain Strongman Champion. Jacobs totaled 47 points to beat second-place finisher Jason Carruth (35 points), 39, of Cortez.

"I'm an avid lifter. I train my little boys, who are 6 an 8," said Jacobs, who is a licensed personal trainer. "We came out today and my wife entered me in it. She's like, 'I don't want you to say, oh I could have done that, or I should have done that.' Like I teach my little boys, you give it all you've got and don't quit. Push yourself."

The reason for Jacobs slight hesitation to compete was because he hadn't lifted weights since January due to a car accident he suffered at that time. He also worked 12-16 hours a day as a scaffold builder from February to May, which left him little time to make it to the gym.

However, the former Olympic-style weightlifter didn't seem to miss a beat, as he flipped the 310-pound tire seven times the fastest, dead lifted 300 pounds the most with 17 reps and had the quickest time in the keg walk, lifting five 150-pound water filled kegs onto a flatbed trailer.

"I just tell myself that I'm not going to let anyone beat me," Jacobs said. "I'm here to win it and I'm going to give it everything I got. It was good and it was fun."

It was the first strongman competition for Jacobs and now the 6-foot, 240-pound man from Arizona is hooked. He plans to compete in a strongman event in White River, Ariz., in September, and come back to Towaoc to compete in the second Ute Mountain strongman competition, which is tentatively scheduled for December. Jacobs took home a trophy, a $220 cash prize, two tickets to the King of the Cage MMA fights at the Ute Mountain Casino that night, and dinner for two at Kuchu's Restaurant at the casino.

The event was also an exhausting day for me, since I also decided to compete. My back, legs and forearms burned the next day like the recent Arizona and New Mexico wildfires. I've lifted weights off and on for the last decade but I've never considered myself a power lifter or World's Strongest Man material by any means. But I can hold my own for my 175-pound size.

The Ute Mountain strongman competition tested endurance as much as strength, if not more, at least for me, anyway. Three of the five events involved pushing, carrying and pulling 40 feet up the inclined parking lot. Every person had one minute to finish each event, except the keg walk was 90 seconds to carry five kegs and lift them onto a flatbed truck. Only a few placed all five kegs. It was the fourth event and by then, many os us were physically and mentally exhausted. I felt this was the most physically draining event. Only a few inches were needed to lift a keg onto the flatbed, while holding it at my waste. But after lugging each keg 40 feet, my arms and legs were not cooperating. That last bit of effort to lift the keg on the truck became insurmountable on my third one.

I was glad there was a long resting period before the next event, as I gasped for air as if I was drowning. I gulped water in the measurement of what seemed like kilograms, just to recuperate.

The day began with the tire flip. It took seven flips to get the massive tractor tire over the finish line, also a distance of 40-feet. The awkwardness of grabbing the tire to be able to push it over was the most difficult. It was hard to get a comfortable routine of grasping while lifting. It was almost like helping your friend move that awkward pullout sofa, but much heavier.

The next event was the 300-pound dead lift. The most reps in a minute won. The dead lift is nothing new for traditional weight lifters. Proper form and grip strength are key in dead lifting. Part of my fatigue factor was grip strength, as it continually regressed in each event. I first felt it in the dead lift. I was comfortably doing the reps and my left arm quickly began to shake.

The third event was the farmers walk, where grip was most important. Competitors carried 150-pound cemented cylinder iron weights 40-feet back and fourth in a minutes time. Carrying the weights caused a swinging sensation in each arm, which made my palms sweat and fingers shake. Weight hardly seemed an issue, it was just being able to literally hold on tight to the handles. Even gloves didn't help my weakening grip in this event, which led into the daunting keg walk.

Following the keg walk was the final event, the car pull. The objective? Pull a 5,500-pound Hummer 40-feet up the embankment parking lot. Participants were strapped in a harness attached to the Hummer and had to pull on a rope to move the vehicle. Putting on the uncomfortable harness brought back memories of working at the Arm & Hammer Baking Soda plant near Green River, Wyo., when I had to strap in a harness working along 40-to 50-foot tall ledges outside safety areas. Here I was five years later strapped to a Hummer. Very few succeeded in the car pull. After countless efforts by many, it was Towaoc firefighter Danny Barfield who first moved the Hummer. He pulled the car the second greatest distance, but was edged by Blair Silversmith, who took fourth overall in the competition.

Joe Lopez, 36, of Towaoc, took third and Josh Galloway rounded out the top five.

The competition was one heck of a workout. It didn't matter if you're solely an iron man in the weight room. Good cardiovascular endurance, too, will win these events.

"Everything turned out good," said Lopez, who helped organize the event. "It's the strongest man wins. It's not about how big you are or how small. It's technique, it's endurance."

Like Jacobs, Lopez and I, it was likely the first strongman competition for most of us. 

"I hadn't done any training. As a matter of fact, I didn't really know what a dead lift was," said the stocky framed Carruth. "Wednesday was the first time I ever performed a dead lift. Moving the kegs, that was endurance more than strength. If you got five up there in that amount of time, that was tough."

Now that people have that experience and for those who want to compete again, they will be training with that hunger and desire to come back in December or whenever the next Ute Mountain strongman competition may be. 

I certainly will.

"It was a lot of fun," said Rob Robson, who judged the competition. "It was a good turnout. The next time, we plan on having a women's division. We hope to have a bigger turnout next time. Hopefully, we'll double the people and double the prize money."

Reach Bobby Abplanalp at bobbya@cortezjournal.com


Side Notes: I remember Frank Jacobs well, he was one of my father's former athletes and weight training students. Frank along with many others would travel around with my dad (I was always the unofficial mascot) to Olympic weightlifting competitions to compete. Many of this kids did very well, placing in National Level meets. Frank was also a really good football player. To this day, I think my dad could verify that he probably was the best kick returner he has ever had. Any time Frank was the return man you knew there was always a chance he would bring it all the way back because he was a down hill runner who ran through people. 

I am also planning on attending one if not both of the upcoming strongman competitions mentioned in the article and hope to give Frank a run for his money. LOL

Monday, July 25, 2011

Passion 
 


Below is another great post from Jim Wendler last week. This falls under the category of "I wish I had said that!" I've got to second the motion that doing what you love and truly believing in it trumps trying to morph yourself and your beliefs to fit in with whatever is the popular trend. While it may seem more porfitable at times to jump onto the latest and greatest band wagon, in the end you can only be or sell what you really are. In my opinion this is true in all aspects of life as well as business. 

How to Make Money in the Fitness Industry

by Jim Wendler - 07/21/2011

One tip for those trying to break into the field.

I was asked this for the first time when I was in Philadelphia and was very surprised. I never really thought about it much – I don’t know if there are any real secrets to putting out a good product, service or idea other than having a good product, service or idea. I know there are marketing classes and groups you can join to help your ideas reach the masses

I know there is sales copy that can convince people to buy your product, keywords, Google search functions, YouTube, Facebook, etc. I’m not sure what all these things really are or really how to use many of them. I’m not a business person and never claimed to be.

I do know that if you want to be part of this industry you will struggle for a long time. Success does not come over night nor should it. Your primary goal when you started training was to make yourself better; to achieve a higher level than your gym-going buddies. To be stronger, faster, look better, be better at a sport. You wanted to throw farther, hear the plates rattle and do something extraordinary. To quote the band White Zombie, “More human than human.”

Your primary focus should never have been to make money when you started training. Or even when you began sharing your thoughts and ideas with others, it should not be about making money. It should be about sharing your passion with others.

Find what you love and are passionate about – don’t worry what is in vogue or what you think people really want. When you cater to what people want and NOT what you love, it will show. You may love powerlifting, strength sports, Highland games, mobility/corrective exercises, diet, crazy conditioning or sports training.

Whatever it is, DO IT. Train it diligently, work on it, form it, restructure it and make it your own. Read about it, dissect it, listen to it and take notes. Trade ideas with others and learn from those that you may not agree with.

So while you can have the perfect marketing page and all “correct” ad copy, in the end you had better love and believe in what you are selling to the public. People can spot a salesman a mile away. It’s best that your smile and handshake are real in the fitness industry even if it’s not dressed in the most fashionable attire. – Jim Wendler

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

John Broz Methods: A Response



A few weeks ago we posted an article about the Broz Gym in Las Vegas, NV with some comments reflecting my thoughts. We got several comments and the article seemed to stir up some opinions and interest. As a follow up, a few days later Jim Wendler, a well known powerlifter and author responded as posted below. I liked what he had to say and am pretty much in agreement. I'll share his post and add a few of my own comments again.  By the way, the USA Weightlifting National Championships were held this past weekend and Pat Mendes won his first national championship with lifts of 177 Snatch and 212 Clean & Jerk. These are certainly excellent lifts for an American lifter in his early 20's but we have yet to see the big Youtube lifts in a competition. Maybe he is "training through" the meet and will be prepared for bigger lifts on the international platform. At any rate, time will tell and congratulations to Pat on some great lifts and being a national champion. Also the story is that Pat (along with all the Broz Gym lifters) was "randomly" selected for drug testing. There are some who wonder what the odds of such a "random" occurance are?
 
John Broz: A Response
by Jim Wendler - 07/05/2011

Read with an open mind.

It’s been a few days since the Bret Contreras article on John Broz, his gym and his training methods came out on T-Nation. The response was huge (just check the comments to that particular article); and I received dozens of questions and comments asking for my opinion about John Broz, the training methods and if it’s right for powerlifting, etc. Here are some of the thoughts, ideas and conclusions I have come up with. Read with an open mind.

• I think what he is doing is awesome – he and his lifters are strong. Whether or not he produces Olympic Gold is not relevant to me. He is doing what he believes in and doing it with passion.

I couldn't agree more. Whether I completely agree with his methods or not, he is getting results and producing champions.
• Don’t ask John Broz to modify a program to fit YOUR schedule. You can’t ask someone who has taken a lifetime to build something and modify it because you can’t pay the rent.
Great point. If it works for you, great. If not, be smart enough to find something that does. 
• Look at the overall IDEA of the training, interpret it and see how you can apply it to your own training. To me, it’s not about squatting every day or doing two workouts a day. It’s about realizing that the human body is much more capable of stress than most of us think. I don’t read an article by Mike Boyle and get all mad because it’s NOT what I do; I read it and try to figure out how single-leg training can be used in my own programming.
I couldn't agree more. Be your own coach, continually learning and adapting.
• Appreciate, admire and respect what the lifters are doing. Many of the comments on the internet about John and his training are incredibly negative, mostly because when one reads an article they IMMEDIATELY get defensive about it. This is because they recognize their own faults, weaknesses and compare themselves. Instead of applauding the dedication and achievement, they knock them down. You are no different than a woman criticizing a skinny girl for being “too skinny”.
The internet is a great way to learn and communicate. Don't waste this great resource on gossip and innuendo.
• If, when you read this article, you immediately wanted to change your training, you need time to develop your own philosophy. I guarantee that if John Broz read an article on the XYZ Weightlifting Team he wouldn’t drop his training philosophy. Absorb what you can, discard what you don’t need.
Well said. I have always said that if any single article or discussion changes your life comletely, you didn't have much of a life to begin with. 
• Is it right for powerlifting? I have no idea. There is a logical way to find out – schedule a meet, develop a plan to get there and see what happens. But please understand that the programming that he uses has been passed down from decades of experience and takes at least that long to perfect and coach. You can’t take an eight week run, bomb at the meet and call the training system a failure. The guy is a Lifer.  Another great point.  My take is that anything works for awhile, nothing works forever. Grow and adapt as you go.
• If you want to find out more about this training, find the sources that John used – that way you can learn and be inspired by what help shape his programming. And guess what? It’s not going to be easy to find these things. Go to the source and make your own interpretations.
• Did you notice that John lifts AND competes?
You bet.

I don’t know John, and I’ve never met him but thank god there are people like him pushing the boundaries of strength training. I wish him and his athletes nothing but success. Whether he produces a gold medal or not, I hope he realizes he is doing more good than any of that paperweight warriors that haven’t the fortitude and discipline to put it on the line. It’s not about the training to me; it’s about the attitude and simply going full-speed.

While I personally agree with this attitude, my personal experience as an athlete and a coach lead me to the opinion that hard work, along with wise use of recovery methods, including both low volume and low intensity days periodically, are needed. But I also recognize that high level competitors can  handle more weight, more often than the average athlete. No doubt there is pain and risk involved if our goal is to compete at the highest levels. Great athletes do many things that are "out of the box" although their "innovations" are largely limited to their own physical potential. Look around you at the best athletes, but listen to your body.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Champions' Disease"




Very interesting story and perspective. I imagine very few Western lifters or throwers will ever have to worry about this affliction "Champions' Disease". Although I suspect that no one is immune, and it can even afflict those of lesser accomplishment if they get too "full of themselves". When the sport becomes an end in itself, it's easy to get unbalanced and distorted in one's sense of worth.

Published on EurasiaNet.org (http://www.eurasianet.org)

Kazakhstan: Foreigners to Do Heavy Lifting for Astana after Attack of "Champions' Disease"

Richard Orange [1]
Kazakhstan [2]
EurasiaNet's Weekly Digest [3]
July 13, 2011 - 1:44pm

The afternoon training session for Kazakhstan’s Olympic weightlifting team is noisy business. Every few seconds, it seems, one of the team lets a 100-kilogram barbell drop to the floor and the room rings with a shuddering clang.

At a remote sanatorium in the hills surrounding Tekeli, 300 kilometers from Almaty, the team is already training twice a day, week in, week out, for next year’s London Olympics. Enver Turkeleri, the venerable Bulgarian Turk who oversees the team’s strict training regime, shuffles around inspecting his charges with a benevolent eye, noting the weights they lift. There are 12 athletes and four trainers working during a recent visit. But one person is conspicuous by his absence.

Ilya Ilin, 22, returned from Beijing a hero in 2008, having won Kazakhstan’s first Olympic gold in its independent history.

Mention his name now in Tekeli and people go quiet.

“He has the disease of Olympic champions,” sighed Vilory Pak, his former personal trainer, breaking off to bellow: “Don’t be a girl, lift it like man!” to a muscled female lifter.

“It’s a real disease, you know,” he continued. “They want freedom, they think they’re real professionals, and they don’t want to obey discipline.”

Asked why Ilin isn’t there, Alexey Ni, the team’s lead trainer, simply put his finger on the end of his noise and pushed it up into the air. “After his gold at the Beijing Olympics he stopped training and he spent his time in nightclubs, drinking whisky,” Ni said.

Ilin admitted as much after his victory in 2008: “I'm enjoying the rest and living a life I could never live when I was training to stay in shape,” he told Megapolis, an Almaty newspaper.

“After Beijing everything was different,” Ilin added. “It is impossible to convey the feeling you get when you stand in front of a stadium full of eight thousand people, and when in every town or village simple people say what they experienced watching me. It's wonderful to know that all the effort was not in vain.”

Now Ilin, who Ni says received $250,000 from the Kazakh government and another $1 million from other sponsors after his Olympic win, is reportedly training in Poland. “He’s training now, but it’s not so sure that he can take part in the Olympics,” Ni said with a shrug.

If he doesn’t qualify, Kazakhstan will find itself in an awkward predicament.

Weightlifting is Kazakhstan's top Olympic sport. Kazakh boxer Bakhyt Sarsekbayev also won a gold at Beijing, but weightlifters won nine of the country's 13 medals.

With Ilin out of the picture, the country's three best Olympic hopes in weightlifting are women that Ni has poached from nearby countries over the last five years. There’s Svetlana Podobedova, a Russian originally from Siberia who last year won the Weightlifting World Cup in Antalya, Turkey. Ni recruited her in 2007. She secured a position on the team by marrying Ilin, although the pair is now divorced.

Then there’s Maiya Maneza and Zulfia Chinshanlo, two ethnic Dungan lifters originally from Kyrgyzstan. They won gold and silver respectively in the Asian Games in 2010.

Kazakhstan will at best get four spots for weightlifting in the 2012 London Olympics. So chances are that there will be only one born-and-bred Kazakhstani on the team — Vladimir Sedov, a local boy from near Tekeli, who barely missed a bronze in Beijing.

“Of course it’s a shame,” said Pak, the trainer. “We are pretty uncomfortable that we don’t have Ilya Ilin, that we don’t have a Kazakhstani champion. But because we have brought those people in from outside, it makes for better competition and we like that.”

At Beijing, Russia protested Kazakhstan's strategy, exercising a two-year right of refusal countries have over former citizens just two weeks before the tournament, barring Podobedova from competing.

The Kazakhstani training program is hardly a sophisticated feat of science and technology. The athletes eat normal food, albeit in vast quantities, and the training hall is only half finished, with its entry hallway still unpainted and light bulbs hanging unadorned from the ceiling.

But according to Ni, the "Bulgarian" regimen Turkeleri has designed is unique in its rigor, with athletes training in the morning, then sleeping in the afternoon (“like kindergarten”), before another session in the evening. “No one else can stand this training regime -- not in Russia, not in China. Only we do it,” said Ni. “Those who can do it, they continue training. Those who are weak, they can’t withstand it.”

Of the 60 people who started training with the Olympic team, he says, only about 20 now remain. Sedov, the local, is the most dedicated of them all, according to Podobedova. The two have been a couple since she divorced Ilin in 2007.

“He has a strong desire to win, and he trains a lot. When we are at home, he doesn’t relax, he continues training," she says. "I sometimes take breaks and have a rest -- not Vladimir.”

Perhaps he's haunted by the ever-present specter that the champion might return and take his spot in London.

“Ilya, he’s very talented,” Sedov said. “llya has never obeyed the regimen. He can do anything."



Editor's note:
Richard Orange is an Almaty-based journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs
Richard Orange
Kazakhstan
EurasiaNet's Weekly Digest
sports

2010 © Eurasianet

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

 White T-Shirts Now Available!

Our White Logo T-shirt
We now have our white T-shirts available with our alternate colored HASKE LOGO. To order visit our Online Store by clicking on the tab above. We would like to thank those of you who have supported us so far. For those ordering T-shirts or posters direct from us here in Utah County, you can choose the Pick-up option for free shipping and will arrange to deliver your shirt in person. Again we appreciate your support as we continue to grow and offer more services and information to help you on your journey. Train Like A Warrior.  

-TEAM HASKESTRENGTH


Our Alternate Color Logo














Saturday, July 9, 2011

Vera Christensen R.I.P.

Many of you who are about 55 or older will remember Vera Christensen, whose "To the Ladies" column began in S&H in May, 1956 and had a very long run of nearly 30 years until the magazine finally phased out. You younger readers have likely never heard of her, so here is your chance to get a little education. She passed away on June 30, 2011 at the age of 80, with her death due to melanoma. Her former husband, Al (they divorced in 1977), appeared on at least one S&H cover with her. (below) He died in 2009.


For those of you of the younger generation, it is hard to believe, but women training with weights is a relatively new development. Vera Christensen was one of the pioneers who lifted long before it was even considered safe, let alone fashionable, for women to exercise and be physical. I have to admit to having had a teenage crush seeing her columns in Strength and Health magazine. So many things have changed for the better since then. Training for women is no longer something considered strange or dangerous and we are all better for it.



Vera pictured with Bill Pearl.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Respect For Your Sport


I think it is important for any athlete to have respect for and a knowledge of the history of  his or her sport. Below is a conversation that came up on the GOHEAVY website recently concerning weightlifting with some perspective from NBA basketball. Young athletes, take time to learn about those who preceded you. Older athletes and coaches, take time to teach the history of your sport.

       I was talking to some IWF Officials this afternoon and was told the following anecdote of Norb Schemansky and Mark Henry in the bar following Mark's not-so-stellar performance in the '96 Games in Atlanta. 

Mark is awestruck by Norb across the room and asks to be introduced to him. Upon their introduction, Norb looks up from the pint of beer resting on his slight paunch and says, straight-faced, "Well, I guess you f*cked up this time, eh?"

Mark replies with, "Well, yes sir, I suppose I did."

Spades are spades, and Mark took it on the chin.

Anyway, I got a good chuckle out of this and thought I would share.

-Rachel

       Rachel,

An interesting and encouraging anecdote, even if it is now 15 years forward in time.

Here's why: At one NBA All-Star Game over a decade ago, Shaq was being coached by the legendary Lenny Wilkins, and they were talking before the game as a coach and player would do. Shaq asked Lenny, "Did you play basketball?"

Of course Wilkens was already by then in the Basketball Hall-of-Fame, not only for his coaching prowess but for his great years as a collegiate and pro player, one of the best careers of all time.

Shaq had no idea who he even was or whether he had ever even played the game.

It indicated, to me, at the time that "modern" athletes often aren't as schooled in the history of their given sports as kids and athletes used to be when we soaked up stats on all of our favorite players in any sport we were interested or involved in.

It's one reason so many of us old-timers who post here often remember fine details of great lifters of yesteryear.

-Cheers! Brad

       Great story. Norb is my favorite lifter of all time. But hats off to Mark for owning up to his performance and calling Norb "sir."

-Matt


I had a similar experience several years ago at a NSCA Convention in Las Vegas. The great Tommy Kono spoke at a luncheon for high school coaches. Afterwards I had the opportunity to eat lunch with him and several other high school coaches. It was great to talk with and learn from him. No one else at the table even knew who he was. Very sad. All of my students know something about the history of heavy lifting and those who made it.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Insight Into the Chinese Weightlifting System




Following is a post by Rachel Crass, an American lifter who is covering the World Junior Championships going on right now. Very interesting. We all know that athletic success comes with a price. The question is....how much are you willing to sacrifice? For the Chinese lifters it apparently requires total commitment and dedicaton of one's life. Is a medal really worth it?

Yesterday, 2 Chinese lifters, CHEN Xiaoting (53 kg) and MAO Chen (62 kg) swept Day 2's podiums. As I was the only member of the press to have any weightlifting experience, I stuck with the "How do you feel about your win?" type of questions. Today, though, I pulled them aside for more of a weightlifter's interview.


In a sentence: They re-wrote everything I thought about the Chinese system.

The children are selected at young ages to go to sports schools, which we all already knew. But that's about where my (correct) knowledge stopped. At these schools, children train for general sport. A little speed, strength, agility...general sports development-type exercises and activities. Their academic schoolwork is interspliced with their training.

Between the ages of 9-10, coaches filter the athletes into specialized sports programs. Some kids are gymnasts. Others are weightlifters. Still others are divers, etc. Neither Chen nor Mao chose weightlifting. Their coach chose them, and they became weightlifters. And yesterday they became World Champions.

Each Chinese state has its own sports schools, with the best athletes from each going to live and train at the National Sports School in Beijing. It's like a mini Olympic Village, with all of the sports represented. In the U.S., we have several National-level training facilities (Colorado Springs, Chula Vista, Park City, NMU, etc). In China, they have one.

Can you imagine America's best swimmers, throwers, sprinters, weightlifters, wrestlers, cyclists, etc. living and training together 365 days a year? They aren't there for camps. They live there. Train there. Everyday. They don't go home. They are allowed to see their family once a year. They spend Christmases, New Years together....Their sporting family serves as a replacement for their biological family.

When asked what happens when they get hurt, Chen and Mao did say that they have doctors who help them recover and perform any necessary surgeries, but if you're no longer good, you are kicked out of the program. If Chen can no longer compete well, there are other 53s who can take her place.

I got very much of an "assembly line" feel from what Chen and Mao were telling me.

When pressed about what they will do after they can no longer lift, both said that they were taking education courses between training sessions. Most Chinese athletes take business courses and go into entry level corporate jobs or open their own athletic gyms when they retire.

Dating and marriage are generally not tolerated. In fact, one gets the sense that these lifters have never even entertained the idea of a relationship. I'm curious to find out how many female Chinese weightlifters go on to have children at all.

In short, I'm somewhat saddened by the news of the Chinese system. I knew it was state-sponsored and regimented, but the truth had me struggling to maintain composure when talking to these young athletes.

So far, China has won all 6 weight classes contested at these World Junior Weightlifting Championships. Perhaps now we know why. 

-Rachel 

Friday, July 1, 2011

What Happens To Your Body After You Drink a Soda (every day, for a long time)

What Happens To Your Body After You Drink a Soda (every day, for a long time)


Here on the Navajo reservation, drinking soda or todilchxooshi (water that makes a popping sound) as we call it is a national pass time. Sales and consumption per person are the highest in the nation. This habit began in the 1960's when trading posts began to stock and sell these beverages. They became popular because the drinking water was scarce and of poor quality. Now it is a way of life. It is not uncommon for youngsters here to consume a 6 pack or more daily. Prior to the 1960's diabetes was nearly unheard of on the reservation. Now we have a diabetes rate that is 6 times the national average. While use in your area may not be so extreme, you should still consider how often you include these drinks in your lifestyle. Don't get me wrong, I am not completely against sodas, I have been known to have a glass of diet root beer on New Year's Eve. But seriously, don't get caught up in the habit. Your body will be better for it.


Sugar rushes and caffeine highs followed by a depressing energy crash are what happens to your body if you drink a soda right now, but plenty of Blissfree readers actually seem to be okay with that. Some of you think it’s alarmist to compare a caffeine and sugar rush to doing drugs, and some just don’t really care about the slump they’ll find themselves in after drinking 39 grams of sugar, but what makes us really worried about a soda-slurping habit is what happens over the long term.

Here’s a quick snapshot of you, in a few years, after drinking soda on a regular basis:

You’ll Be Fatter: According to research in the Nurse’s Health Study, which monitored the health of 90,000 women for eight years, drinking a single soda every day of the week added 10 pounds over a four-year period.

You’ll Probably Have Diabetes: In the Nurses’ Health Study, women who said they drank one or more servings a day of a sugar-sweetened soft drink or fruit punch were twice as likely to have developed type 2 diabetes during the study than those who rarely consumed these beverages.

You’re Much More Likely to Develop Heart Disease: According to a study published in 2007 in Circulation, the journal of the American Heart Association, subjects who drank a soda every day over a four-year period had a 25% chance of developing high blood sugar levels and a 32% greater chance of developing lower “good”cholesterol levels. The Nurses’ Health Study found that women who drank more than two sugary beverages per day had a 40% higher risk of heart attacks or death from heart disease than women who rarely drank sugary beverages.

You’re Probably Also Less Healthy In Other Ways: Several studies, including the 2007 study published in Circulation, suggest that diet sodas have some of the same effects on health as regular sodas, despite having none or very little of the sugar. Why? Drinking soda is typically part of an overall lifestyle that’s not very healthy: We know you don’t like us to compare drinking caffeine and sugar to substance abuse, but when it comes to your lifestyle, some think that soda is just like a gateway drug.

So you think you're making a healthier choice when you reach for diet soda instead of a sugary soft drink? Think again.

Diet soft drinks may have minimal calories, but they can still have a major impact on your waistline, according to two studies presented at a meeting of the American Diabetes Association in San Diego.

Researchers at the Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio tracked 474 people, all 65 to 74 years old, for nearly a decade, measuring the subjects' height, weight, waist circumference, and diet soft drink intake every 3.6 years. The waists of those who drank diet soft drinks grew 70 percent more than those who avoided the artificially sweetened stuff; people who drank two or more servings a day had waist-circumference increases that were five times larger than non-diet-soda consumers.

The findings are in line with those of a 2005 study, also conducted by researchers at the Texas Health Science Center, in which the chance of becoming overweight or obese increased with every diet soda consumed.

“On average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese,” said Sharon Fowler, who was a faculty associate in the division of clinical epidemiology in the Health Science Center’s department of medicine at the time.

But how does something with no calories cause weight gain? Turns out that even if our taste buds can't tell the difference between real and fake sugar, our brains can. Another study, also presented at the American Diabetes Association meeting on Sunday, found that after three months of eating food laced with aspartame (which is also found in many diet soft drinks), mice had higher blood sugar levels than rodents who ate regular food.

According to Fowler, who worked on all three studies and is now a researcher at UT Health Science Center at San Diego, the aspartame could trigger the appetite but do nothing to satisfy it. That could interfere with your body's ability to tell when you're full—and could lead you to eat more in general.

It happens in humans, too. A 2008 study found that women who drank water sweetened with sugar and water sweetened with Splenda couldn't taste a difference, but functional MRI scans showed that their brains' reward center responded to real sugar "more completely" than it did to the artificial sweetener.

"Your senses tell you there's something sweet that you're tasting, but your brain tells you, 'actually, it's not as much of a reward as I expected,'" Dr. Martin P. Paulus, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego and one of the authors of the study, told the Huffington Post. So you chase that no-calorie soda with something more caloric, like a salty snack. The sweet taste could also trigger your body to produce insulin, which blocks your ability to burn fat.

Aside from the health problems that go along with a widening waistline, diet soft drinks have also been linked to an increase in diabetes, heart attack, and stroke. One study of more than 2,500 people found that those "who drank diet soda daily had a 61 percent increased risk of cardiovascular events compared to those who drank no soda, even when accounting for smoking, physical activity, alcohol consumption and calories consumed per day," ABC News reported in February. And a 2008 University of Minnesota study of nearly 10,000 adults ages 45 to 64 found that drinking a single can of diet soda a day led to a 34 percent higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a collection of health problems that includes high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high levels of belly fat.

"Drinking a reasonable amount of diet soda a day, such as a can or two, isn't likely to hurt you," writes Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic. "The artificial sweeteners and other chemicals currently used in diet soda are safe for most people, and there's no credible evidence that these ingredients cause cancer."

"It’s hard to make a blanket statement on whether or not you should drink diet soda," Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., the nutrition editor for EatingWell Magazine, says. "At the end of the day what I think it comes down to is how are you using diet soda—is it truly a substitute for a higher calorie beverage or is it just an excuse to order the fries with your burger or a cookie for dessert? If it’s the former, go ahead. If it’s the latter, perhaps think twice."

But no matter how the soda is sweetened, it is an empty calorie food, Wright points out. "It delivers no nutritional value whatsoever and so should only be consumed in moderation."

Here is a "bodybuilder" who couldn't shake the soda habit.....