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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

I look like an engineer

The #ilooklikeanengineer movement is taking off on social media to challenge stereotypes of what female engineers look like.  It occurred after Isis Ancholee Wenger , an actual software engineer, was featured in her company's recruitment campaign- literally, a picture of her in a black t-shirt, smirking confidently--caused people to accuse the company of putting a too-sexy-to-be-an-engineer-model in the ad.  Basically, society was able to sexualize just a picture of a woman in a black tshirt from the waist-up (ie no bikini, no airbrushing...just Isis in a t-shirt and glasses!). 

So, if you don't already know, I happen to be an engineer.  Specifically, I'm an aerospsce engineer, and I work on aerospace composites when I'm not working on weightlifting shoes and weightlifting studies.  I can even legit call myself a rocket scientist as I have worked on research projects on missiles and even a project for NASA on system safety.  And , just in case that doesn't convince you, I even have 2 degrees in engineering: a BS in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech and an SM in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT (MIT uses the abbreviation "SM" not "MS").

Definitely, in the last few years of my career , I've thought less and less about geneder stereotypes. Mostly,  the more experienced and credentialed you get, the less people tend to spew sexist putdowns at you.  Additionally,  I'm also the type of person who refuses to be a victim, and, rather, I choose to own my own emotions and power. So, I thought I was past that phase in my life , of being the new engineer female who gets borderline sexist questions posed at her.

Nope, think again...

Coincidentally, around the exact sametime Isis Wenger was getting heckled for not being dowty enough,  I got a zing of sexism that I hadn't felt in years. Let's just say, someone indirectly called me a cheerleader, effectively denigrating work I had done.  In effect, I'm fully behind redefining what women in engineering look like.

In Isis's article on medium, she talks about men asking her to be "friends with benefits" at work or throwing dollar bills at her ,also, while at work.   Well, for the sake of comparison, here are some of the worst  sexist things I have experienced as a female engineer at work, paraphrased:

 " you know, MIT is really hard, and you have a child. why don't you just go somewhere like [other Boston are university] that will take less time away from your home life" 
 
" No one has ever completed [ special corporate technical talent program] while being married with kids. It takes a really exceptional person" Well, guess I'm pretty damn exceptional, because I did it.
 
" Are you picking up your kid from day care,  again ", this was actually from a fellow female engineer
 
" are you promiscuous? please say you are. You can tell I don't get any at home", from a technician.
 
"What are your plans for having another child?"
 
Although I never had dollar bills thrown at me like Isis, once while working a summer job in between college semesters, a salesman threw pennies at my glutes(to see if they would bounce??). It took a month for the car dealership we worked at to force him out ( a whole month!)

So, the #ilooklikeanengineer global social movement, could not have been more well-timed for me.  And, thanks to my dear MIT alma matter, I received the pleasant surprise of fininding MIT had displayed my image on social media as an example of an engineer that defies stereotypes.



Certainly, getting a shout-out from the MIT mothership helps make me feel like a full fledged nerd.

What this has to do with a weightlifting blog:
As I have written before, women tend to be sexualized for just about anything!  When I lift at big competitions, I invite spectators to focus on my athletic performance- the speed, the flexibility, the athleticism. You can pick apart my technique the way sportscasters "Monday morning quarterback" Tom Brady.  But, don't make your entire evaluation of my lifting based on my outfit, my hair, or my sexiness while thrusting a bar overhead.

At large competitions that are livestreamed, I do see a lot of female lifters putting bows in their hair, doing actual hair and make-up.  It is as if they are trying to prove their femininity while doing a stereotypically masculine sport.  To me, it seems like a silly distraction form making weight and warming-up. For myself, I,on occasion, wear eyeliner because it amps me up like badass, punk rock war paint. I might even straighten my hair so it stays in one place or go with wild curly hair, just depends on how I feel. For me, I could careless if I don't meet people's standards of "feminine" or sexiness when I lift, just as I don't care if I fit people's standards of what a female engineer should look like.

Ronda Rousey effect

I think Ronda Rousey is an awesome role model for movements about breaking stereotypes based on sexualizing women. If you watch her compete, she looks to be all about utility, speed, and technique. She's so dominant that most sports casters actually just talk about how she fights and not her hair an make-up-- what a refreshing scenario.

 She also talks about how she is not a "do nothin' bitch"-- a woman whose whole existence revolves around sexualizing themselves to men.  She explains that she developed every muscle in her body for a purpose, and not to meet society's standards of sexy or feminine.  Therefore, she sees herself as "femininely badass as fuck".  

Similar to the #ilooklikeanengineer, this #dnb hashtag is challenging what society views as feminine or what a female athlete looks like. Unfortunately, some just take this as a cue for society to focus its sexual desires on athletic women versus women who look more like super models.

In short, consider women for what they do, first, not just what they look like. And what someone looks like may not be a good indicator of what they do. 


References:
https://youtu.be/5UV9-AL2JtQ

https://medium.com/the-coffeelicious/you-may-have-seen-my-face-on-bart-8b9561003e0f

Friday, July 24, 2015

Walk- FooFighters, Nationals, Einstein, and Nirvana


“Learning to Walk again,
I believe I have waited long enough
where do I begin
Learning to Talk again,
Can’t you see I’ve waited long enough
Where do I begin”

FooFighters, Walk



Who knew going to a FooFighters concert at the legendary Fenway park could be such a compelling experience.  I’ll get back to the Foo in a few paragraphs.

2015 USAW Nationals

Many of you have been inquiring about my elbow and if I will be competing at the 2015 USAW nationals.  Sure, I will, I mailed paper registration, so I should appear on the start list before the final entries.


Ok, JUST Kidding.  I just did that for the haters. Some people asked me out of genuine love and regard for my health if I would be at nationals-- Others asked me out of thinly veiled self-interest, secretly hoping would say “no” so it would give them a better shot at medaling.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I work in the corporate world, I have a very good BS detector.

 I had a possibly career ending injury, at American Open, saving my second attempt snatch at 90kg (video is on my Instagram page @gwensisto). It’s healing miraculously, and I am thankful for that.  And, I need to appreciate my Wolverine like superpowers and not take for granted my ligaments, again.  I’m really beyond the point of going to Nationals just to win another medal, because I have a trunk full of those. I want my lifting to mean something, and I want to put my best work out there.  My mind is stronger than my body, so I will push myself, once again, when my elbow is where it needs to be.

Moving on
So, what do I do to console my grief, my loss, my pain over my injury---the grief of being number 1 on the American Open startlist only to end my competition after my second lift, to sit out the final Pan Am Games qualifiers, and, now, to sit out nationals.

Further, my coach, Ivan Rojas, spent the first half of July in Toronto as National Coach of Panama for the 2015 Pan Am Games.  I was happy that my Risto Sports Teammates Rocio and Ariel (see their photos and video on the @ristosports Instagram) would get to compete.  At the same time, I didn’t really want to be around longing for what could have been.  

 I guess I did the only thing I could do:
Go to Europe and console my grief in fois gras, speaking French, eating Steak saignante (that means bloody ;). 

 Journey through Europe

Lifting in Europe is interesting.  In America, you basically can email any crossfit or weightlifting club and ask to train there.  98% of the time, they will respond and offer you training times. Worst case scenario, they may charge you a drop-in fee. Most American gyms and crossfits do not charge a drop-in fee if you are a seasoned lifter, especially if you own your own gym, and are coming in to do your own workout and not to WOD. Part of  this is  simple professional courtesy –understanding that one day , they might have a lifter who may need to get in a session at your gym.

France is not at all like this. French culture is way more relationship based.  I have gotten lucky that I found one gym of powerlifting champions that responded and seems to appreciate having me stop by and train. Others seem to have the attitude that they don’t know me, personally, so no effort is made.  So, my hit rate on emailing crossfits in France is like 50% and maybe 60% for Switzerland.  In Germany, which is a bit more explicit culture like USA , my hit rate is 100%.  In France, there are many public gyms, often located underneath the community pool. Some are free , some aren’t,   and some of these gyms are Salle d’halterophilie or weightlifting gyms. Good luck getting in contact with the management unless you physically stop by , perchance, when they are training,  or if you know someone who knows someone that will put you in contact.  Still, when I do get to train at a gym in France, the people are awesome, and I appreciate it greatly.

 Journey through Switzerland..

When I go to France for work, I almost never have a free day or weekend to explore nearby countries.  This time it worked out, and I had a free weekend to fulfill my dream of re-creating “The Sound of Music” in the Swiss alps. And, of course, I worked in a training session.
I trained at CrossFit Helvetix in Basel Swtizerland. Though I drove there, it is right next to the train station . It’s a very nice space especially for being in a city, and the trainers exchanged shirts with me which is very cool.  They had Elieko bars which is a plus. More importantly, I really liked the people there.

I spent some time at the base of the biggest mountains in Switzerland, one being the Eiger.  At the base is Thunsee, this gorgeous mountain lake.  I have never seen water so aqua colored. It was sky blue with a hint of green – not like water in the Caribbean—it looked like something out of the Wizard of Oz.  There were mountains flanking all sides of the lake, some with steep slopes with chalets dotting their sides. It almost looked like villas on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea , other parts made me think of a Swedish Fjord.  

The landscape was gorgeous; the food was… ehhh…not so much.  Switzerland has 4 official languages, one of which is French. My French did me almost no good as I happened to be on the German side of Switzerland, so almost every sign was in German. The menus were all in German.  In many cases, I was better off speaking English than French in this part of Switzerland.  I went to an Italian restaurant, thinking as Italian is also an official Swiss language the Italian food must be good, right?  Well, the glaze on their Veal Saltimbocca came out like some heavy German sauce, and their risotto was tangy. It was weird.  The chocolates, Kaffee, and Kuchen were good though. I quickly figured out to only order German food or eat chocolate.  
Random cliff with swirling rock formations overlooking downtown Interlaken, Switzerland , Berner Oberlander 

The highlight of Switzerland was going to Bern and seeing the Einstein museum.  Einstein had written the theory of relativity in his apartment in downtown Bern while a patent clerk.  I also remember fondly playing SimCity on super Nintendo, with Bern being one of the city scenarios you could play.
Downtown Bern, Switzerland

Bern looks like a fairy tale town. The river is also a strangely perfect aqua blue, also looking very Wizard of Oz-ish.  Bern is also closer to the Berner Oberlander, where the Eiger and other giant Swiss mountains are, than say Zurich or Lucern.
Einstein , Einsteinhaus
Einstein's house, Bern, Switzerland


What I got out of seeing Einstein’s house:  For the most part, he was either an average or bad student and never felt like he fit in. He actually dropped out of his first school (equivalent of junior high?).  And, yes, he didn't always test well.

 He was only a great student when he really liked his school.  In college, he wouldn’t bother going to lectures that did not interest him, hurting his status at graduation, and that is probably why he ended-up as a patent clerk.  Additionally,  he was a loaner except for the couple friends he made through playing music and his wife, the only female student at his university.

 Still, he had great ideas and kept working on them, regardless of being affiliated with a university or not.  Because of the few friends he made through his love of playing the violin, he had help along the way of making connections with other great thinkers. Because of the humility of other great thinkers in academia, and their willingness to recognize Einstein’s talent, he eventually received positions at universities where he could fully dedicate himself to his interests.  Yes, he was very smart, and by working with other great minds, he was able to fully develop his ideas.  So,  persistence, talent, and finding your advocates leads to success., and often, its the people we least expect, who are the most talented.  Still, no one does it alone, not even an Einstein.
Back to France, Luxembourg
When I crossed the border back into to France, for a second I thought “ahh, I’m home”.   There is nothing like French food.  Even terrible food in France is still better than average food most anywhere else. The French have impeccable food standards.

I also was blessed to be in France for the 14th of July or Bastille Day.   Since everything was closed in the morning, I decided to visit Luxembourg, another country.  From where I was situated, the drive was about as far as driving from Risto Sports to Boston, like an hour. I drove while listening to FooFighters ‘ Sonic Highways album; I had my fill of French EDM by then. 
The center of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Luxembourg was like a little Switzerland, except with most people speaking French. The signs were in French and German, and, instead of mountains, there were steep hills. Like Bern, Luxembourg seemed to be built on two sides of a ravine, no river though.  In Luxembourg, their French sounded almost like how Americans speak French, so much, that the people I talked to seemed to guess I was actually from France.

I returned to France that night as that is when people really start to wake-up on the 14th of July. One of my customers had recommended I go to a “bal de pompier” or fireman’s ball.  I was told it was a traditional French dance with traditional French music (ie the accordion) held in a firehouse or caserne. 

So, when I arrive to this firehouse, there is not an accordion to be seen.  I walk into to a bangin, loud club, blasting out EDM (electronic music)  - complete with a French DJ and strobe lights.  It was crazy.  The finale included a special performance by the muscle-bound firefighters themselves.  These great patriots performed a “Chippendales striptease” from the roof of the firehouse down to their underwear. Fortunately, it was only male firefighters.  In the audience was anyone, including children.  Ehh, its Europe, they still had close on so guess its PG rated.   I relayed the story to my French co-workers, and they were like “Ohh yeah, sometimes that happens. Usually in smaller towns though.”  Gotta love France.  video on @gwensisto instagram

Foo fighters
Like many things in life, I’m not sure how I wound-up at a FooFighter concert in Fenway Park, Boston, but I’m sure it was meant to be.  So,I happened to know a Rock photographer- actually through my engineering connections, of all places- that gave me a heads-up on the FooFighters tickets at Fenway 

 Dave Grohl seemed to make a point of having opening acts come from the local area, so night 1, two Boston bands, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones and Mission of Burma opened for the Foo.  Upon entering the venerable, magical, mystical Fenway Park,  the Mission of Burma filled the block with the rich sweetness of rock and roll.  They were followed by the Mighty Mighty Bosstones who killed it. Boston people love them, especially redsox fans, and especially Red Sox nation at Fenway. They ended with their biggest hit , “the impression that I get” , and people just went crazy for a song written about Boston, the RedSox, and Fenway Park.  They have super cute matching punk-ska-suits that really added a nice touch to their performance. The sound was a bit intereferance-y and static-y, probably because the stage was set-up for the FooFighers and not he opening acts…hey a few feet of where your amp/speakers are set will mess-up the acoustics, its engineering shit, so I should know.

 How good FooFighters actually are LIVE
FooFighters at Fenway Park, Boston July 18, 2015

The FooFighters accomplished an amazing feat being about 1000x’s better live than on their records, and I love their records.  They are hands down the best Rock show I have seen.
Dave Grohl exuded this charisma and intensity that you just don’t get from the FooFighters records.  He was so animated throughout the show, inspite of his leg being in a cast, and controlled the crowd of over 40,000.  It really is a phenomena that could only be observed and appreciated by attending a live show.  Further, Dave Grohl looked incredibly sexy as he wielded his guitar upon his FooFighter guitar throne.

They opened with the most up-tempo, hardest, and intense-ist version of “Everlong” I had ever heard.  Isn’t that awesome that they opened with probably their most famous song, and it really got the crowed going.  They basically played all their hits (except for long road to ruin and rope) and a few tracks off their new album, Sonic Highways.  

Their live renditions of their hits are just louder, harder, more rock and roll versions with extended guitar riffs  and  Dave Grohl throwing in plenty of rock and roll howls.  Again, I am so thrilled with how intense Dave Grohl was; his live self was such an inspiring surprise.  And, who knew Taylor Hawkins, the drummer could sing so well.   Aside from Dave and Taylor, there are 2 guitarists, a bassist, and a keyboardist; all were much less animated, though Pat Smear was interesting to watch.

They were cool enough to discuss at length their love for Queen. They play the open bars of “another one bites the dust”. Taylor Hawkins sang notes like Freddy Mercury to the crowd. They then played “Under Pressure”, with Taylor singing the Freddy Mercury part and Dave singing the David Bowie part.

The night was complete with Dave mentioning that someone “let out a Bababooey in the front row”, a fan’s homage to Grohl’s Howard Stern connections.  And, Dave’s nice guy deed of the night was reaching down and signing a girls cast.

The concert left me thinking that Dave Grohl is truly great at being a real rockstar , not just that bullshit term “rock star” that people throw around.  His performance inspired me, once again, to truly be great at something, to be great at the one thing or things that I'm meant to be great at.

Thank you, Dave Grohl.


Alas, Nirvana…

Still, I can’t help watching FooFighters and not think about Nirvana. Honestly, can anyone? It’s not a bad thing.  What would have happened if Kurt Cobain was still with us?  Would there be a FooFighters? Who knows. 

The music is so different, and both are great.  I feel like Nirvana really captured all the emotions I was feeling from middle school until the part of college. That pent-up angst and rage that accumulates when you either:  feel like you’re an outcast or a loaner or like you don’t belong or just feeling oppressed, misunderstood by others. And it was belted out by Kurt Cobain who was both charismatic and gorgeous, and he didn’t seem to know that, which only increases his beauty.

But, as I get more knowledge and wisdom I realize I can't make everyone happy and no one can oppress me because I own my emotions, so , now, when I hear Nirvana its more cathartic.  I feel sad at times thinking about how such beautiful music came , at times, from such a dark place. And underneath that rage there is introspection, empathy, and compassion.  Just watch, “Montage of Heck”**;  the documentary shows Kurts’ family having completely failed him, having failed at finding a way to nurture or to support someone bursting with creativity(that’s the impression that I get).  I only wonder if Kurt’s stomach ailments, that reportedly were assuaged by heroine, stem from stress of a really crappy childhood.   Like Franz Kafka said, “ we ought to read …books that wound and stab us”, Nirvana’s music does that to me.

 On the other hand, you have FooFighters which probably more closely matches how I feel now.  Most of the songs have a positive message, some are very uplifting like “Walk” , “Times Like These” ,and “Hero”.  When listening to them, you have to consider that the front man, Dave Grohl,  had supportive parents (just listen to his interviews on Howard Stern).  It is quite an interesting juxtaposition* of the two bodies of work of two very different bands, both being great in their own ways.

So, yeah, I’m ready to walk again. I believe I’ve waited long enough,
 to get back on the platform.


* I'm sure I could also draw-in an Einstein comparison to Cobain, but I thought it would be a bit much at this point in the article.
** it was a very sad film, especially as all the terrible parts are based on someone's real life.  

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Yes, my CrossFit friends,Technique, it matters


Those of you who know me, know that there are many things I LOVE about Crossfit , yet there are something's that just completely irk me. The CrossFit community has done some pretty novel stuff with competitions involving weightlifting- the ideas are good, and I just wish we that would further improve the execution.

Ths article points out both positives and improvement opportunities with CrossFit competitions and is meant as constructive criticism as I love CrossFitters, work with them, and am, at times, hired by these athletes to help them grow and improve.

I will give you my visceral reactions to the last regionals, positives, myths to change, and recommended solutions.

CrossFit people are tough so , please, accept the gift of feedback and use it to get even better.

First, take a look at this video from Crossfit games South regional Event 5- max snatch:

https://www.facebook.com/CrossFitGames/videos/911809868860872/ or find it on the CrossFit Games page, it looks something like this:

The Visceral reaction: ( please be open minded, the goal is amelioration, improvement)

Personally, I was completely  shocked with how poor and UNSAFE most of the technique was for a REGIONAL LEVEL competition- ie these athletes could actually qualify for the CrossFit Games.  It looked like one of the athletes  split snatches so they can touch one knee to the ground to help them stand up with the weight. Another athlete drops to their knees and tries to stand-up. Another tries to do almost a snatch grip power clean and press.  

We have taken an otherwise very safe lift, called a snatch, and bastardized it to the point that these lifters can be doing significant spine damage.

How does any of this even qualify as remotely being a snatch? In thrusters, no foot movement is allowed when thrusting the bar overhead . How can we let people fall to the ground and stand-up with a "lift" and call that a "snatch". 

 The best analogy I can make is : It's almost like watching a baseball game and a pitcher throwing under hand and hitting the batter in the head each pitch. It's the Wrong movement and disregards safety.

The CrossFit community is ultra-supportive, in this case, to a fault, as many are cheering-on potentially spine-breaking fails.  This is false bravado.

And - this false bravado doesn't pay:
Notice, that the athlete that won the snatch competition, Jenn Jones, had better technique than maybe all but one other competitor in the video. As you may have read in my previous articles, good Olympic weightliftingshoes  technique is not a "nice to have" to succeed in CrossFit , it's mandatory . It will reduce your WOD times and reduce your injury rates.

There are some many simple good things that CF can do to advance both the Crossfit and weightlifting, that it pains me to see some of its improvement opportunities being celebrated as wins.


I am an optimist, there are some positive things we can talk about first.


Positive things:
ON one hand, I applaud Crossfit for eliminating some of the stuffiness and subjectivity in Olympic weightlifting judging. For example at US Natiional meets, lifters who bobble their lats or wiggle their arms might get called for a pressout, even though lateral are motion, shoulder motion, lat motion, etc.. are not considered press outa. I have even experienced this myself. I happen to be blessed with incredible flexibility and mobility. As a French orthopedist told me, my genetic constitution is “hyper lax” (baby, I was born this way) -- my ligaments enable me to hit difficult positions like racking the bar , bottom position, or save lifts(I’ve abused this talent with my American Open injury).  In the past, I had saved lifts turned down ( I’m feeling this trend is changing looking at some of the butt-ugly lifts that passed in the American Open W69kg A session I lifted in last December, at least my saves look good).

In summary, crosffit competitions don't penalize you if you have a little arm movement, which makes the game more fair and more exciting.

But, has CrossFits relaxation of snatch standards gone too far? Yes.

Change the Mythology -The opportunity to improve:
The relaxation of snatch standards is related to the cultural identity of the CrossFit community. The behaviors and beliefs that are prevalent in the CrossFit community help support the acceptance of unnecessary risks.

Many people in the community make excuses for the poor technique citing time constraints, fatigue, and efficiency.  The community has created mythology surrounding weightlifting technique. Let's bust some these myths.

MYTH 1: CF athletes are more fatigued by the time they get to a snatch ladder, therefore their technique will be worse
REAL Olympic Weightlifters train in Fatigue conditions. We train to get better as we get tired. If you take one of our Risto Sports seminars, you'll understand exactly why. And to summarize, you need to train when you're tired so your lifts become like reflex reactions, just like Chuck Norris doing a round-house kick. 

In conclusion, someone doing a CrossFit WOD should actually have better technique as they get tired.

Perhaps, if they competed in snatch events in actual weightlifting shoes, they would also feel less fatigued. I just watched Abigail Guerrero of CrossFit Guerriers , who placed 4th at last years Canada East Regionals , do a WOD involving rowing and thrusters in her wood heel weightlifting shoes. 

MYTH 2: CF athletes don't have enough time between reps in a max snatch event
A decent snatch takes less than 3 seconds. A well trained athlete should rest less than 90seconds between sets. In Crossfit, they have about 30seconds to do the rep? That is plenty of time to set-up and lift.

MYTH 3: CF athletes have invented new techniques to do reps faster
Sorry, there are thousands of studies going back to the Soviets on optimal weightlifting technique . With heavier weights, you will need to do a real snatch to maximize you're lifting potential. Some of the women in the regionals video were jacked-up and huge- like could press me over their head with 1 pinky-and I could still out snatch them.

Myth 4: these athletes know the risks, if they are risking injury with bad technique they know it and accept it

Repetitive stress injuries are interesting . Sometimes athletes will have a serious catastrophic injury with little or no onset. Our bodies joints, bones, tendons, ligament, are analogous to trusses and building joints in civil engineering. You can stress a joint below its ultimate strength over and over again, and one day it can just fail.  Don't you think it's a little odd that someone whose body looks as amazing shape as Julie Foucher snapped her Achilles just doing a box jump?  Or that Kevin Ogars spine broke in a sub maximal lift.   
 
Doing a little bit of bad technique over and over again over long periods of time can lead to sudden failure. The athletes with ugly snatches  in the CF regionals video, above, are , in the long term, sacrificing their spine. 

The injuries in Crossfit are much different than in Olympic weightlifting. Most of the catastrophic ( ie needs surgery) weightlifting injuries are after near maximal 1rep efforts, especially when a lifter is trying to save a lift. And, most of these injuries happen to joints like knees, wrists, and elbows -- NOT the spine.  There are very few spine injuries in Olympic weightlifting , particularly among the Olympic medalist level. ( see my article discussing the Ogars injury versus Olympic Gold medalist , Matthias Steiner, who walked away, unharmed from dropping 200kg on his neck.

In other words, since many of these catastrophic injuries are happening overtime, athletes might not realize what they are sacrificing.  More education is needed.

MYTH 5: Weightlfitng technique takes years to master, so this is the best these athletes can do given how long they've been in the sport

That is both true and untrue. Having perfect technique like Ilya Ilyin takes years. Having good technique , for people with CF regional level of conditioning, takes weeks or months .

Most of the great CrossFitters have done other sports before CrossFit, they are athletic enough to do a muscle up , an overhead squat, or hand stand walk, they should be athletic enough to do an ok snatch. If regionals athletes are serious about getting to the CrossFit games, then they need to be able to do a nice snatch-- Not necessarily an Ilya Ilyin level snatch, but something that is not going to break their spine.


Recommendations ---solutions:
There are some pretty simple things we can do to make the CF world a better place.

1. Get a real  weightlifting coach to teach you technique
Start with someone whose lifter has medaled at a national competition, and , preferably, has  worked with countries that have great technical lifters.  You may need to try several coaches or find a distance coach depending on where you live.

2. Any WOD involving snatches, cleans, jerks, thrusters, or squats should be done in weightlifting shoes that have good stability, not lifters and especially not nanos 
Wood heel. Do not get shoes with a rubber and small plastic heel. Avoid brands where people look like they are hopping around in the shoe, because the shoes are so unstable. There are enough YouTube videos of people in neony-plasticy-vinyl-y shoes to see that people wearing these have way more foot movement and ankle wobble in their Olympic lifts. 

3. Master your technique before doing any lift for time
In general, learn how to snatch with the bar as close to you as possible, with the least amount of swinging before venturing on to more than 5 repetitions in a row. 

4. Use the same definition as a snatch as the IWF, AND add specific guidelines for press outs
The IWF has been around for almost 100yrs and has one of the lowest injury rates in Olympic sport. They might know something, ehhh?  If we can set clear rules on what a thruster is, then we can do the same in the snatch.

Perhaps, CF can make positive change in the weightlifting world by using the same guidelines , with the added bonus of clarifying level of press out that is acceptable. For example, allow any subtle arm movement, and turn down lifts for presses from bars caught at a 90 degree elbow angle or less.

In closing,  please Take this article as positive feedback on how to make the world a better place for crossfit and weightlifting.

Wouldn't you rather take the time to learn how to do a real snatch than break your spine?

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Kazakhstan Weightlifting- Part 4 training and food

 When I think of the food in Kazakhstan, i think "no wonder why these athletes are so strong".  (Reference www.ristosports.com )

If you eat with a Kazakh family or even at a Kazakh restaurant, you can find a diet high in protein. There is usually an appetizer of some sort of meat like chicken or horse meat cold cuts, and a final course centered around another meat like horse meat.  I , personally , don't eat horse meat; so, in Kazakhstan, I wound up eating a lot of easier lamb or beef , which are much easier to find than chicken.  

In my personal opinion, I really enjoyed the Kazakh food the most (that excluded horse meat) It's weightlifter food - grilled meat. Home cooked Kazakh food was also very good, including the desserts and salads.

I did also try Uuygur food. It was delicate stir fries in thick sauces . This was also extremely good. I did like the Russian food, slightly less than the Kaakh food.
Uuygur dishes- beef on noodles, beef empanada like dish, greek salad (no lettuce, ie real Greek salad) . They only had 2 chicken dishes and probably 15 beef or lamb dishes. In America, we'd probably see this as a goid thing.

Russian chicken dish with cheese sauce, only place that had pork on the menu

The Kazakhs meat diet is a reflection of the fact that most Kazakhs are Muslims. Horse meat is considered a "clean" meat because horses graze in pastures and drink clean water. On the other hand, pork is not eaten as pigs are considered dirty animals; for example, they do not eat as clean as horses and are known to roll in their own feces.  Pork, consequently, is very hard to find in Kazakhstan. You can find it in Russian restaurants , whereas most of the Russian population are Russian Orthodox Christians. I, again, stress that there is great sense of religious tolerance in Kazakhstan, just don't expect to order bacon at a Kazakh restaurant.

The ethnic Kazakhs also drink copious amounts of unpasteurized animal milks.  If you go a little bit off the grid, you can find Kumis, horse milk, and camel milk in flea market like bazaars. These milks taste salty with a bit of a fermented taste. The consistency is more like whey than creamy cow milk.These milks vary greatly from bottle to bottle. It indicates that these animals have a more natural diet as the consistency between flavor is all over the place ( eg maybe some of the lactating mares ate more grass than hay, etc).
Bottled Kumis

It is important to note that the Kazakhs love and respect horses so much that they eat them, which is pretty much the opposite reaction that an American horse lover would have.  I get the impression that it is similar to the relationship between Native Americans and buffalo.

The food is very natural. I don't think they have genetically modified Monsanto wheat, thank God. I found I could eat wheat and dairy products with far less negative effects than in the USA. This was a good thing as mist of their carbs came from wheat or potato products. It was difficult to find rice, corn, or other gluten free complex carb sources. 

What is also interesting is the lack of coffee. An average restaurant will not have coffee. The population relies on tea--- and its not fancy bubble tea or diffused loose leaf tea, most of the tea is simply bagged tea, like you'd see in the UK or America.  The tea was average strength, not like something you'd drink in Taiwan or China. The best tea I had was at the Peking palace, a Chinese 5 star luxury restaurant. 

You can find coffee though. There are western style cafes in the city. Most of them can be found in the large malls , which are something of an architectural achievement, specifically, the Khan Shatyr ( pictured)


 Some of the Russian restaurants will have Expresso drinks.

If you consider powdered coffee to be coffee , you can find powdered coffee in supermarkets and some non-Russian restaurants will serve powdered cafe.

When I think of Kazakhstan training, the first thing that comes to mind-- 

I have never seen such a variety of assistance exercises used at the beginner level.  More than any other system I studied, I saw youth and junior athletes doing deficit cleans, snatch grip deadlifts, bench press, back extensions, and modified pulls.  Again, I stress that these were beginners and not elite Olympic level athletes. There  is a focus on getting athletes strong , building their fundamental strength , in preparation to take heavy Olympic lifting training at the upper levels. Check out my youtube channel , to the right , for videos.

Much like the USA of 5 years ago, there is zero influence of Crossfit in the Kazakh weightlifting community.  None of the lifters have even heard of it(sure, except for , maybe, the one athlete who has been giving seminar tours in the USA ).  The sport grows in Kazakhstan because participating in sports is considered a fundamental right of the public, hence all training centers are free and staffed by paid coaches, paid by the government. 

This is almost the complete opposite of the U.S. System , where athletes promote themselves for practically unpaid sponsorships. In Kazakhstan, Weightlifting makes no money for the federation, unlike sports such as boxing. In effect, the federation has to pay out a lot of money on the sport. For example, the youth nationals LG competed at was normally a 5 day event; it was squeezed to 3 days, in part, due to venue costs. Good thing the Kazakh weightlifting team is widely successful on the international stage.

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