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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".

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.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kazakhstan Part 3, and ethnograph


Kazakhstan- land of the mythical winged horses ridden by Kazakh warriors , and large palazzo's to display this iconography
When we arrive at Astana, the airport is small and modern.  It is incredibly clean and is about the size of Ottawa Canada’s airport, another small capital city. Most every sign is in Cyrillic with some signs having English subtitles.   Almost no one speaks English in the Astana area.  Foreigners leaving the airport have to fill out a tiny slip of paper, which looks to be simply printed off of a laser jet. The transfer slip is about 4 inches by 2 inches, and you must scrawl answers to simple questions like “purpose of visit”, “number of children traveling with you”. Fortunately, the wording is in both English, Kazakh , and Russian. I had to re-fill out mine about 3 times because it was ambiguous as to whether the answers were to be put in the column directly next to the question or in another column off to the right.


You could tell that they don’t get many Americans passing through Astana.  The officers knew basic commands in English only related to their job.  So, filling out the ambiguously labeled form involved a short cycle of rework.  

 It was also interesting as my daughter, who is a minor, and my husband, and myself all had to go 1 at a time to the customs window. It is probably the only country I have been to where families do not go to the customs window together.  We were all asked if we had a Visa, despite that the Visa requirement for Americans had been waived  during the time period we traveled.

It is a very short walk from the passport control to the exit of the airport.  At the time, Astana was about the same temperature as Boston, maybe even warmer.  It seemed Astana was having a slightly warmer winter than normal, and New England was having a colder, snowier winter.

The roads from the airport to Astana’s city center are wide and well lit.  We enter the city down a wide promenade like highway, lined every few feet with tall highway  lamps lighting the path to the center.  The city is clean and organized.  As we would find through out the trip public spaces are very well taken care and meticulously cleaned.

 
Our training hall and the site of the 2015 Kazakhstan National Youth Championships is in Aramay Training Center- a large, clean, somewhat modern public training building.     It was about a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  It is in the older section of the city, a few miles from the gleaming downtown.
Lifters training at the Astana, Kazakhstan weightlifting hall after competing at Youth Nationals. You can see posters of Ilya Ilyin training here

People walk fast in Kazakhstan, probably because the temperature is in the single digits (F) most of the time.  Many people wear fur. Most men, especially Kazakh men, have fur hats. Women often wear full length fur coats with hoods. Most people wore dark color, especially black pants.
 
For the most part, lifters and coaches at the training hall are very friendly and kind.  The coaches are respected, and they shake eachothers hands every time they enter the training hall for the first time that day.   The male athletes also greet the coaches with handshakes.  Ivan was included in this fraternity of coaches . There were few female athletes, so not being sure what to do, I did not partake in the hand shaking ritual. 

There is a great sense of respect for all ethnicities and religions.  There is a sculture dedicated to peace between all religions ( above) at the bayteret tower (its like their George Washington  monument) People are very curious about culture and ethnicity.  In America, people love to ask you what your ethnicity is, especially if you have an interesting look. In Kazakhstan, people also want to know your religion.  Knowing we are Catholic, it is quickly pointed out to us that there is a Catholic church right in front of the training center.  About 60% citizens of Kazakhstan are ethnically Kazakh and Muslim, and about 40% are ethnic Russian and Russian orthodox Christians.    In general, Russians speak Russians, Kazakhs speak Kazakh and likely Russian, and any other ethnicity probably just speaks Russian.  Many people think that Ivan is Muslim because he has a goatee. Not sure if anyone assumes anything about me; though when they ask me about my ethnicity, 100% say I look Italian (pretty much every where I go, except America, do people agree I look more Italian than my other ethnicities. I think some Italian Americans have a pissing contest over who looks more Italian).  Its pretty funny how having facial hair in the USA is synonymous with Americaness, being manly, being muscular, and really isn't associated with anyone religion or ethnicity when you juxtapose it to Kazakh Muslims having facial hair. 
 Next... Food
 
 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

This Blog cited in Breaking Muscle

Check out this article by www.breakingmuscle.com . It cites my 2014 post that analyzed the Ogar incident at a fitness competition in which many of our crossfit friends took part http://breakingmuscle.com/functional-fitness/kevin-ogar

According to burpeezoid.com , Ogar is now walking after being paralyzed- pretty amazing !

Monday, March 9, 2015

Yes, buy the F%&king shoes already

I get this question a lot. I've posted about it several times.  I'm going to present this in a completely different way to help my colleagues in weightlifting, crossfit, bodybuilding, strongman, anyone who squats... to understand why weightlifting shoes are the first thing you should buy when you start lifting.

About once a month I get this question:
" Do I really need weightlifting shoes?" 
"Should I buy nano's , first, then some lifting shoes if I decide I really like crossfit"

What I want to reply:
"Really? Really? Didn't you just spend $200 on an outfit from Lululemon, and you can't pony-up $130 -$200 for a pair of shoes that will fit your feet long after your quads outgrow those $200 yoga pants."

So, let's get our priorities straight.

Weightlifting is a cheap sport, therefore buy the damn weightlifting shoes

Your sport is super cheap. How much gear do you need to lift weights. Hmmm.... weight lifting shoes, a belt, wrist wraps, knee wraps, pulling straps, and a singlet.- maybe compression pants .  What is that like a whopping $300-$400, and most of that equipment will last over a year. A whopping $150 amortized cost. And, if you are a crossfitter, you probably already have a pair of sneakers and some work out clothes, so you can hold off on buying a $60 sports bra and $120 nanos.

Weightlifting shoes /gear is affordable, especially compared to other sports. At least, from Risto Sports .

The Chart indicates basic personal gear needed to participate in a sport at a sporting facility
Look, to compete in horseback riding, you may need over $5000 of basic equipment - boots, jacket, shirt, gloves, crop, breeches, helmet, saddle, bridle, show pads.   Hockey will cost you a couple grand in skates , pads, etc.  A set of decent skis, poles, boots (imagine the pro-level gear).  In weightlifting, you can buy all new ,professional grade gear for under $500 or less than 1/10th the cost of competing in riding in ok gear.

Weightlifting is safe when you do the right thing, so buy the weightlifting shoes already.

You need weightlifting shoes to protect your joints.  Weightlifting shoes provide a stable base and minimize lateral motion. Lateral motion on the joints wears your joints down faster. For example, when you lift in nanos or barefoot, your ankles will roll much more than in weight lifting shoes. This will cause your knees to wobble as well; even slight wobbling will put undue stress on your knees. 

Finally, your spine is under great compression when squatting, and great torque when snatching or clean and jerking.  Most sneakers are designed to be cushy an unstable , for ergonomic reasons, which is good if you are standing all day long or walking around all day like a nurse.  For lifting, this is exactly the opposite of what you want.  You need a shoe that will allow you to position and control the weight in relation to your center of gravity -- good luck doing that with foam , EVA, and other soft soles.

Here's a video from Kazakhstan, I just took, showing girls lifting in sneakers and girls lifting in weightlifting shoes.  The girls lifting in sneakers do so because they cannot afford weightlifting shoes.  Their decision to wear sneakers is not one based on whether they buy the latest outfit form Lulu. 


Even incredible athletes and highly flexible people need weightlifting shoes.

Yeah, yeah, you probably saw a photo of Akakhi Khakiasvillis (3 time Olympic Champion) training in sandals before the 1996 Atlanta Olympics (Ironmind photo?).  Do you really think he lifted in sandals, everyday?  And what percentage was he lifting up to in that photo anyhow?  If you look at his training videos, they are in proper shoes.  And, He still holds world record at a 188kg snatch-- that he snatched in wood heel weightlifting shoes.

A good, recent example is Dmitry Klokov. He posts many photos showing feats of strength; for example, lifting on the beach in sandals, etc.   Again, look at the percentages of his best that he is lifting.  He recently snatched 200kg in the warm-up room at the 2014 world championships in weightlifting shoes (my coach, Ivan Rojas, witnessed it first hand. Afterall,  Risto Sports hosted Klokov's brand Team Winner at our booth at Worlds)

In summary, yeah, it looks cool to show off lifting in abysmal shoes like nanos -- AND, when it comes time for the real performance-- the record breaking , the lifting your max-- weightlifting shoes are required.

Just to illustrate, here's an example of me squatting in weightlifting shoes vs nanos.



In shoes, I am able to keep my back flat. I also maintain a straight line from the tip of the bar over my shoulders, hips, and mid foot.   This means that I am effectively keeping the bar in the optimal position for power output.  I am getting the most out of my muscle groups in my legs, while minimizing stress on the back.  In sneakers, I am much more forward. The bar is over my toes, and in the mid squat position, I am way more pitched forward. I'm losing engagement of my hamstrings and glutes; the use of those muscles in suboptimized. Further, way more stress is on myback and abs for no reason.  The bar is further form my center of gravity making it heavier to lift.

By the way, I am super flexible and mobile.  I can lift in sneakers, flip flops, barefoot, high heels-- you name it.  I choose not to , because I consider doing so useless showing off.  I consider it putting my body in danger, for no reason, and killing my GAINZ for no reason.



 

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Risto Sports,Order at:

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info@ristosports.com

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