I’m sure growing up at one time or another you’ve probably heard that dinner table spiel from your parents; “If you want to have strong bones and muscles you got ‘a eat your meat!” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Now I know what you’re thinking, how else do we get all the protein, vitamins and minerals that we need if we don’t eat our meat?
Let me be rhetorical for a minute… Where do you think all the animals that we consume get theirs?
That’s right, from a plant-based diet, and just like the animals bred for our use and consumption, we too are herbivorous (plant eaters). Here’s a few obvious reasons why; Like all herbivores in the animal kingdom, we too have a long intestinal tract, our teeth are flat for chewing and our jaws move side to side for grinding.
If we were leaning more towards the carnivorous (meat eater) family we would have fixed jaws, sharp, scissor like chompers for ripping and tearing and a digestive system that could safely consume fat and cholesterol without the nasty side effects of obesity, chronic disease and premature death.
Over our evolution, we have made no physiological adaptations to eat meat nor to consume any other animal products (milk, eggs) in our diet. If you look at our Lipid metabolism (the process by which fatty acids are digested or stored in the body) we are 100% herbivores, inside and out.
“Humankind does not show the mixed structural features one expects and finds in anatomical omnivores such as bears and raccoons. Thus, from comparing the gastrointestinal tract of humans to that of carnivores, herbivores and omnivores we must conclude that humankind’s GI tract is designed for a purely plant-food diet.” ~ Milton R. Mills, M.D
Now, I know what you’re thinking, our prehistoric ancestors ate meat, lots of meat and they survived and somewhat thrived. The difference between them and us is that they did it to survive from one day to the next. The least of their problems was worrying about long term health and preventing chronic disease.
“People often say that humans have always eaten animals, as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.” ~ Isaac Bashevis Singer
Knowing what we know and the plethora of choices and information that we have available today, do we really need to sacrifice and exploit others to meet our dietary needs? The answer is unequivocally… NO!
I’m not going to get into the obvious moral and ethical reasons why plant-based is the right and only choice, I want to explore the reasons why it’s a better and more logical diet for long term health, improved athleticism and overall athletic performance.
When we eat animals, we are consuming the protein, vitamins and minerals that they’ve ingested from their feed, the drawback for us is that we’re ultimately consuming the second hand, watered down, almost like version of the originals, along with a heaping serving of saturated fat and artery clogging cholesterol… Can you say Obesity & Cardiovascular Disease?
If a plant-based diet is good enough for the goose, its definitely good enough for the gander.
There are many benefits of choosing a plant-based lifestyle over one that is derived from exploiting and consuming our animal friends, and those benefits aren’t so one sided and self centered – living a plant based lifestyle is paramount in preventing many of the chronic illnesses and ills that plague our society today, such as…
- High Blood Pressure
- Premature Death
- Behavioral & Mental Issues
- Heart Attacks
“I cured my cancer and heart disease by eating meat, dairy and eggs.” ~ Said No One Ever!
Moving on to the athlete, here are some of the Ah-Mazing benefits and reasons why switching to a plant-based diet will improve performance and crush sets…
The Drano Effect
When you’re consuming lots of fruits, veggies and whole grains, your body gets a nice cleansing as the food is digested and the fiber works it’s magic.
And speaking of the magic of fiber, it optimizes digestion and minimizes belly bloat, which can set you back during training.
Leaving out the animal products also helps keep your cholesterol levels down and the blood flowing clog free.
When you’re light and clean on the inside, you can be quick and responsive on the outside.
Phenomenal Cardiovascular Health
Because a plant-based diet is low in cholesterol and saturated fats, you can maintain and improve your cardiovascular health with ease.
An optimal system at peak performance helps you train longer, train harder and improve recovery times between sets.
When your cardiovascular system is firing on all it’s cylinders, it’s easier to breath, maintain stamina, stay motivated and in the zone during training sets and on competition day.
Going the Distance
Many plant-based athletes contribute their increased endurance and in turn better performance to a plant-based diet.
The extra shot of endurance derived from a plant-based diet makes it easy to keep pace with all the happenings in life without having to sacrifice valuable training time.
The Side Effects
Because plant-based diets aren’t loaded with saturated fats, it’s easy to maintain a toned, chiselled physique and a natural body weight that doesn’t yoyo between meets.
As I’m sure you would agree, a well-balanced diet is paramount for all athletes – filling up on fats and non-foods will only hinder and stall any goals and progress you wish to make.
Yes, believe it or not, athletes can survive, thrive and compete with great success on a 100% animal free plant based diet.
Here are a few good plant-based alternatives that are common and easy to find.
Good quality plant-based protein sources are…
Hemp seed nut and flour
Beans (kidney, black, garbanzo, soy, adzuki)
Unsweetened soy drink
Good quality plant-based fat sources are…
Extra virgin olive oil
Flax seed oil
Hemp seed oil
Non-roasted nuts and seeds
Calcium rich plant-based foods include…
Dark, leafy green vegetables (spinach, kale)
Iron-rich plant-based foods include…
Dried peas and beans (kidney, lima, lentils)
Walnuts, cashews, pecans, almonds
Hopefully I’ve touched on many of the pros of becoming and plant-based athlete, because when you truly look at it from every possible angle, there really are no cons worth entertaining.
We can choose a diet of animal products that causes pain and suffering to ourselves and to others, or we can choose a plant-based one that promotes vitality, athleticism, health, and harmony for all…
The choice is ours.
Going plant-based will improve your game and most of all improve your life and the lives of all concerned.
Nothing Beats Get’n Veggie Strong!
What is Meditation?.. Meditation is relaxation. It is not about concentration, it’s actually about de-concentration. It’s not about focusing one’s thoughts on one thing, but instead on becoming thoughtless.
There are many myths and misconceptions about meditation, some think of it as a hippy-dippy practice aimed at transcendence or they envision a Buddhist monk spending a lifetime on a mountain top, cross legged, burning incense, searching for enlightenment, but in actuality, to experience the benefits of meditation it takes only a few minutes of practice a day, once embedded into your daily routine, meditation will help put your day in perspective and instill passion and intensity into your sets.
With all the compelling scientific and sport performance evidence coming out in the past few years, meditation is becoming something that can’t be overlooked.
As any Kettlebell Sport Athlete knows, their biggest opponent has always been that little, annoying “You Can’t Do THAT!” voice inside. Meditation can give you the ways and the means to crush that voice.
Meditation research on athletic performance is still very much in its infancy. However, meditation has been shown to be a huge benefit in other areas related to athletic and peak performance.
Here are a few reasons why every Girvek & Girveka should consider meditation as part of their programming, practice and ultimate game plan.
- It helps you focus.
When it comes to go time your focus will determine how you perform and on how well you perform, so why not train and condition your mind to focus better? Meditation training has been proven to increase focus and improve performance, so this one’s a no brainer.
- It helps you cope with pain.
Pain is part of the game, whether it’s mental or physical. There’s an old cliché around athletes that no matter what, they’re always dealing with some sort of pain. Meditation has been proven to help cope, prioritize, overcome and deal with it.
- It helps you deal with fear.
Fears can hijack our minds from the present moment; this can lead to so many negative emotions and feelings that will self sabotage a set. Meditation can help calm the fear center of the brain known as the amygdala even when you’re not meditating.
- It strengthens your immune system.
You cannot afford to be sick; if you’re sick you can’t lift. Meditation has been shown to improve and strengthen the immune system.
- It reduces our mind from ruminating.
Ever have a bad training set, miss your goal or worse yet, end your set on competition day just 5 reps away from MS? Sometimes it becomes hard to bounce back, we run obsessive thoughts through our minds. Meditation has been shown to reduce rumination; meditation will essentially help you reset the mind to focus on the present.
- It makes you resilient.
The best Kettlebell Athletes in the world are the most resilient; meditation has been shown to help in this area. To become a Master of Sport or a World Champion resiliency is a prerequisite, you will ultimately fail at many times before you succeed, it’s the price you pay. Meditation helps you detach yourself from the negative thoughts that keep you from pushing forward and achieving your goals.
- It reduces stress.
All Kettlebell Athletes leading up to a competition are under some level of stress, depending on the level, if left unchecked it may sabotage and kill your goal. Why not embrace a practice that has been proven to reduce stress? Incorporating a little bit of meditation before your set will go a long way.
- It helps to stabilize emotions.
One study showed that people with more mindful traits are better able to stabilize their emotions and have better control over their moods. The nature of competing and competition causes athletes to have to deal with a roller coaster of different emotions and feelings. Why not embrace meditation and use mindfulness throughout the process?
- It helps with sleep.
One night of lost sleep could be detrimental before a big comp, quality sleep is one of the most valuable things every athlete should strive for. Meditation has been shown to improve the quality and quantity of sleep.
- It helps us to see our blind spots.
As Kettlebell Athletes we spend a lot of time lifting alone to perfect our craft, the drawback is that without a coach close by to analyze and critique us in the areas that we can’t see (blind spots), we become unmindful and essentially blindfolded to any deficiencies and shortcomings that may need tweaking.
Meditation certainly doesn’t replace the sharp eye of a good coach, but what it will do is make you more mindful, aware and in tune with how your body feels and reacts throughout the process of the lift.
Chances are, if it feels good, it must be good.
Meditation could give you that unfair advantage that you needed to crush that set or win that competition that you’ve worked so dang hard for.
For some valuable free resources and to find out more about the ah-mazing benefits of meditation for both health and sport, just click – HERE
If you want a piece of the action, first find peace in the action…
Then Crush It!
By: Coach Tim
Here are the 5 most common kettlebell snatch mistakes with a few tips and tricks on how to fix them…
- Lifting instead of pulling.
Like in the kettlebell swing it’s important to load the lower posterior chain (hamstrings, butt and lower back) by driving the butt back and creasing at the hips, this will ensure that the necessary ballistic energy is built up during the backswing to launch the bell forward.
It’s at this point where the snatch and the swing part ways…
Instead of letting the bell go forward as in the swing, the bell is pulled up to redirect it overhead (as in a vertical leap). This takes place as the arm comes off the torso during the explosive hip extension.
If the loading and unloading phase is out of sync, or if the bell is redirected too late, what generally occurs is that instead of redirecting the bell with a pull upwards, it turns into more of a lifting movement, because of the lack of ballistic energy available to overcome gravity, activating primarily, the arms, lats and shoulders vs. being the explosive, cardiovascular, strength exercise that it is.
If your snatch feels more like a lift, here are two things that you can do…
- Go back and refocus on the loading and unloading phase, the best way to do this is to practice half swings until they feel fluid and natural.
- Focus on the acceleration or pull phase (you can do this with the half swing). As you drive your hips forward, just as the forearm comes off your torso give the bell a pull upwards. Do so until it feels weightless and effortless.
The snatch like a vertical leap uses loaded, ballistic energy to overcome gravity, we just take that energy and transfer it over to the bell.
- The kung fu grip.
The reasons why you may hold onto the handle with that “kung fu grip” may stem from “lifting instead of pulling” or it might be just from the subconscious fear of dropping or losing control of the bell.
Either or, holding on for dear life has several detrimental side effects that need to be addressed, toot sweet, such as… Torn hands and bruised forearms, which just horn in and take all of the fun out of it.
The only time that you should give the bell any kind of grip is during the re-grip on the drop into the backswing and during the acceleration hip drive into the pull, any thing other than that, the hand should follow and direct the bell into a smooth overhead fixation.
Too heavy of a grip causes the bell to grind instead of float in the hand, creating and tearing calluses, the bell is also likely to bang hard against the forearm during fixation (lock out).
Here are two things that you can do…
- If possible, use an “OK” grip by engaging only the index finger and thumb (the thumb locks on top of the finger) floating the other fingers. If during the set your grip starts to fail, then start to fire the others one at a time. This technique might not be doable for everyone, due to hand size, strength, etc. The important part is to only engage the minimum number of fingers flexors that you need, no more, no less.
- Trust yourself. If you’re dialed in and pulling instead of lifting and the bell is floating up, relax, loosen your grip, let your hand go along for the ride and shadow the bell… It’s liberating.
In the end, you’ll save your hand, your grip and your forearm.
- Inserting your hand into the handle too early or too late.
Inserting your hand too early or too late in the fixation phase creates inefficiencies in the movement and unnecessary griping and grinding of the hand.
Knowing that the hand follows the bell overhead and helps in it’s navigation, a smooth, unobtrusive transition into fixation is optimal for efficiency and effectiveness of movement.
One of the best ways to fix this is to imagine that your feet are at 6:00 and that your head is at 12:00, as the bell rises, you should focus on inserting, sometimes referred to as punching your hand into the window (handle) at the 11:00 position.
This is the ideal position to ensure that there is very little effort or grip required to position and stop the bell into a smooth fixation overhead.
- Not filling the window.
- The finger flexors and forearm are fired and tensed to maintain stability because the wrist is loaded and bent. This will create premature tiring and early ending of your set.
- Bone stacking and relaxation aren’t possible. Once the window is filled in fixation it is then possible to relax because the bell weight is then supported by the skeletal structure vs carried by the musculature. This is also considered one of the major rest points during a rep.
Filling the window allows you to lift more, lift heaver thus spending more time under tension.
- Dropping out instead of down.
Here’s where gravity becomes a friend, and for two reasons…
- We no longer need to overcome gravity to get the bell up, it’s gravity’s turn to work for us and get the bell back down.
- While gravity is doing it’s thing, we can sit back and do ours by taking the time to relax and breath.
The most common mistakes people make are that they muscle or slow the bell down during the drop or they throw it outward and away.
Here are two ways to fix these…
- Just drop it! That’s right, let gravity do its thing, and R-E-L-A-X!
- Give it a path! To avoid throwing it out and away, give it a clear path down. The easy way to do this is to turn your pinky finger on your fixated hand in, towards your center of mass and at the same time move your upper torso back by slightly flexing at the knees, this will in turn rotate the bell in and give it a clean, non-obstructive path down.
Re-gripping into the back swing phase happens as the bell reaches the apex, which is right around your belly button level.
Remember to use the “OK” grip, less is always more, also don’t forget to stay relaxed and breathe.
- In conclusion
The snatch is considered by many to be the mother of all kettlebell movements, it has everything you need for optimum fitness and conditioning, from the novice fitness goer to the professional athlete…
Its ballistic and explosive, it gets your posterior chain firing on all cylinders, it keeps your core engaged, improves shoulder health and stability all while burning up to 20 calories per minute.
The snatch… A simple movement with many complex benefits.
By: Coach Tim
The Gift – A gift is the transfer of something without the expectation of payment.
Somewhere along the way, we lost the true meaning and measure of giving. Gift-giving has become big business in North America. There is social, emotional and financial pressure to ‘get the right gift’, for many retail businesses the holidays are considered ‘pay day‘ a broad generalization that we believe we need to spend our money to buy something for another person.
Here are 3 gifts that you can give that you won’t find in a store, catalog or online, that won’t cost you money or put you in debtors prison, and that will do more to enhance the lives of the recipient than anything found in a box store or a box.
Kindness – Compassion – Love
Kindness – “Kindness is more than deeds. It is an attitude, an expression, a look, a touch. It is anything that lifts another person.” – Plato
1. Kindness makes us happier.
2. Kindness gives us healthier hearts.
3. Kindness slows aging.
4. Kindness makes for better relationships.
5. Kindness is contagious.
Compassion – Here is the Cambridge Dictionary definition of the word: “a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for the suffering or bad luck of others and a wish to help them”.
1. Compassion makes you happy.
2. Compassion makes you wise.
3. Compassion makes you attractive.
4. Compassion gives you time and money.
5. Compassion boosts your health.
6. Compassion uplifts and spreads.
7. Compassion is 100% natural.
Love – “Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.” – Oscar Wilde
It’s what these holidays are all about. With love coming in all shapes and sizes, being together and sharing with your loved ones at this time of year is the most rewarding and POWerful thing that you can do for yourself and everyone else around you.
However, it’s not just about spreading the love over the holidays, love is for everyone, every moment of every day, 365 days of the year, so we need to nurture and grow this behavior and carry it into the new year and beyond.
Give to yourself and of yourself this festive season by spreading and sharing these three POWerful gifts.
You are like a candle, for when you give your light to another person, they receive light also. Therefore it’s reciprocal, you give and receive at the same time, giving light to another and receiving joy within your soul.
- You swing with a rounded back.
This is a problem because you can hurt your back, specifically your lower back.
There are two fixes here:
- Keep your chest up and look proud. Imagine that you have writing or a logo on the front of your tee and that there is someone standing in front of you, they should be able to read your tee as you swing.
- Also, imagine that there is a broomstick on your back from your head to your tailbone, your job is to maintain connectivity with the stick at all times, this will help maintain a neutral spine throughout the entire movement.
A neutral back will ensure that you maintain the maximum amount of efficiency and power generation throughout the movement while maintaining a safe, injury free posture.
- You squat your swing.
At its core the swing is a lot like a deadlift or a broad jump, to generate power through the lower posterior chain (hamstrings, butt & lower back) the butt needs to go back not down.
Imagine creasing at the hips versus bending, this will ensure that the chain is ready for loading and blast off.
- You use your arms too much.
The kettlebell swing is not an arm or shoulder exercise.
All the power to move the kettlebell comes from loading and unloading the lower posterior chain by creasing at the hips and thrusting the hips forward to float the bell up, the arms only guide and control the bell, they’re just along for the ride.
If you’re engaging the arms too much, you may need to go back and refocus more on the loading phase.
- Your heals lift off the ground.
This might be fine if you’re jumping, but with the swing it’s important to maintain as much connectivity or rootedness to the ground as possible throughout the movement.
Here’s the fix…
To help generate as much loading and ballistic energy as possible, imagine that you are jumping through the heals, not the balls of your feet. This will help ensure that your heals are firmly planted throughout the movement at all times.
- Your swing goes too high.
Swinging the kettlebell above your head tends to make you overarch and expose your back, which may unveil hidden inefficiencies in mobility and strength, throughout the shoulder and back area, thus leading to injury and pain.
Like the broad jump, we want to direct the force out, not up, if you want to go up, then consider the snatch (that’s in another article).
The swing is a back and forth movement only.
The goal is to project the force out, let the kettlebell float up to about chin level and then let gravity do its job and send it back down for the next rep.
Once everything is dialed in and the bell is in motion, it will stay in motion.
- In conclusion.
The goal, like with any exercise is to increase both the efficiency and safety of the movement.
Having a rounded back or letting the heals come off the ground are never good things in about 99% of the exercises out there.
When swinging, always use a weight that lets you swing with control but is also heavy enough to practice that hip snap.