Wed, 30 July 2014
This week on Barbell Shrugged we are honored to be joined by Kevin Ogar. Just in case you aren’t aware, Kevin became well-known after fracturing his spine at a competition in January 2014.
It’s only been six months since that devastating, notorious injury, but Kevin seems remarkably recovered, at least spiritually and emotionally. You should have seen him smile wide when he was telling us about the bright white Stacie Tovar shorts he was wearing underneath his pants. “Yeah, I’m actually wearing them underneath here. I heard she was going to be over at the Barbells for Boobs tent…I thought I would challenge her to a booty-shortshowdown.”
That group has been so supportive and caring for Kevin and his family these past few months, causing a bit of a stir at their Crossfit Games tent would be the least he could do in return. Also, it would just be a good time. That’s one of the lesson’s that Kevin has taken away from the injury. “Now that I’m in a wheelchair I really like to push the limits of what I can get away with.”
It’s hard not to love that attitude. I must admit, I’m not sure I could keep that perspective, especially after such a freak accident. That’s really all it was, a freak thing on an otherwise routine set of snatches. An off catch with a modest load. A dumped repetition that changed a life forever. The question has been begged over and over by now, “Is Crossfit dangerous?” But Kevin flatly denies that. It was more about the angle, the odd timing, the one in a million shot that did the breaking. In truth, he’s one of the rarest of patients. Most injuries of this sort are attributed to skiing accidents, vehicle crashes, and other sorts of routine activities where the risk is more widely known and accepted. But this is different. In fact, it’s hard to identify another case like Kevin’s at all. The injury was anything but an inevitability.
Our conversation started to turn visceral and raw when Kevin began to describe how the injury felt. At the moment of fracture his nervous system went into extreme shock and alarm. His whole body burned with pain and sharp electricity. I just sat there as he spoke, quivering a bit, growing more and more queasy by the second. I couldn’t imagine the feeling, and I couldn't respect the guy more for what he has endured.
Eight Dilaudid fueled, motionless days followed the injury. At first the doctors didn’t want to lose Kevin to shock and blood loss. Next up was the intense spinal surgery that would place his back into alignment. The approach was from the side. The ribs were split and dislocated. His organs had to be removed and his entire core reassembled. “That surgery has a 35% survival rate.” That only made the weight of this injury all the more heavy. I could hardly stand the thought.
Despite the dangers and risks, Kevin couldn’t have had a better surgical outcome. Still, he know’s he has a battle ahead. “They say the chances of me walking again all on my own are less than 1%, but I’m the king of small percentages. I'm 3% of the world's population as a Ginger 3%. I have blue eyes, which means I’m 1% of that population…So, I like small numbers.”
Kevin began his rehab by facing his first big physical challenge, getting upright in a wheel-chair. “I know it sounds easy, but it’s so hard. It feels like you’re sitting on top of a balance ball, only imagine if your leg’s didn’t work.” Still, he did it, and he’s still at work. What remains of his core musculature has begun to adapt. His nervous system is reinervating and adjusting in astonishing ways. Hell, the guy still manages to have a six-pack, despite the damage.
No, there are no guarantee’s here for the recovery effort, but there’s cause for optimism. Who know’s what technology will come in the coming years. For paraplegics and spinal cord patients who are able to keep their bodies strong and fit, anything could be possible. If you can remain resilient, tough, and hard to kill, then you should feel optimistic. Kevin’s got that written all over his face. His happiness and positive outlook are true.
Kevin is training as hard now as he ever has, but the goals and outlook have obviously changed immensely. It’s no longer about maximizing strength and fitness, it’s more about not sucking so bad at life in general. It’s about attacking weaknesses, which now include showering, going to the bathroom, and getting back up into his chair after a fall. Sled pulling, prowler pushing, dumbbell work, gymnastic drills, it all has a place in his regimen.
That’s where the biggest lesson of Kevin’s story shines through, I think. Progress on the small things is incredibly rewarding. Consider going back and working on the basics. It might be your posture, your foot position, your timing, whatever. Remastering it will be one of the most rewarding things you can do. If you get injured, do not stop. There’s always something you can still do. So do it! Something is better than nothing, always. And who know’s, this enforced change might just be the best thing for you. For once, you might be forced into doing something new, something necessary. You’ll have to develop and utilize new tools. That’s always a good thing.
I don’t think there’s a limit to what Kevin can achieve. He might walk again, I hope. But he’s definitely not going anywhere. He will keep finding new ways to train and compete as an adaptive Crossfit athlete. He’ll keep working to share the message of fitness with other patients, bringing the support and community that have made such a difference in his life since January.
Revelry, revelry, you have our full support, Kevin. There’s no limit to what you will achieve.
To learn more about the cause and support Kevin’s efforts, make sure to check out KevinOgar.com. You can also follow him on Instagram and Facebook in order to stay up to date on all the latest developments.
Thanks, Kevin. It was truly an honor to meet and chat with you.
Sun, 27 July 2014
Wed, 23 July 2014
Sun, 20 July 2014
Wed, 16 July 2014
This week on Barbell Shrugged we are joined once again by the one and only Kendrick Farris, two-time Olympian for USA Weightlifting, tattoo aficionado, part-time comedian and all around amazing dude.
Kendrick always gets us fired up when he speaks, but it’s quite another to actually see Kendrick lift. Imagine, a man his size easily tossing almost 500 pounds overhead, or easily squatting 550 pounds rep after rep. It’s incredible. On the world stage this guy is as strong as any lifter his size, period. The Olympics are always a really tough competition for the United States, sure, but I for one can’t wait to see Kendrick on the Rio platform in 2016. The Barbell Shrugged crew will be right there in the stands, sipping Caipirinha’s and cheering him on as loud as we possibly can.
To get that damn good, you would think Kendrick has sacrificed everything for the sport of weightlifting. It wouldn’t surprise you if he came off as obsessed, hyper-competitive and all that. But the truth is that he lives a remarkably balanced life. Kendrick’s Instagram feed is not just a showcase for his lifting prowess. It’s mostly pictures of friends, family, and more than a few tattoo sessions. He’s the type of guy who loves and shares openly. He wants you to be better than him one day, which is probably exactly why he’s such an amazing lifter. Attitude is everything.
Kendrick doesn’t compete to impress anyone, especially not himself. He’s just interested in learning what works best for weightlifting. Sure, dominating the platform is the ultimate goal, but only because it creates a platform for Kendrick to inspire, teach, and share his remarkable point of view on lifting and living. It also gives him the opportunity to meet the best coaches in the world, to mix and share ideas, and to push the community forward.
Between Kendrick and the lovely Diane Fu there’s never been a better time to learn the sport of weightlifting. They both have such an amazing, open attitude to coaching and sharing information. Their seminars really are some of the best coaching experiences you could hope to have, really.
You can check out dates for Kendrick’s Bless the Gym Tour here. Also, if you want some Diane Fu in your life, check out her event schedule. You’d be silly not to go, especially when they coach together. Do it!
If you want a summary of Kendrick’s wisdom look no further than his attitude towards weight and diet. Lifters often obsess about cutting weight before a big competition. The rationale is clear enough. If you can cut hard, then regain weight after weigh-ins you will have a clear competitive advantage over the other folks in your weight class. And that’s true, but more often than not the cut leaves you feeling like shit. This is what happens when you spend more time thinking about the competition, forgetting what it is that’s best for you. Likewise, diet is cool and all, but there’s no sense in obsessing over it. The details, demands, and strict food limitations aren’t necessary. That’s time and effort that could otherwise be spent with the barbell, which is a far better way to become a great lifter. Does Kendrick eat Paleo? Does he have a personal chef or catering services provide him meals? Hardly. He seems to spend most of his time crushing bags of trail mix in between training sessions. It’s not ideal, but he seems to love it. Maybe that’s the only dietary detail that matters.
Get with a great coach, or two, or three. Move efficiently, but find out works best for you. There are no hard rules. Do your thing. Refine it. Put together a long-term plan and be patient. Train hard, and with a community of great lifters. Eat what you need to eat. Weigh what you’re going to weigh. Be the strongest possible version of yourself.
If you want more Kendrick in your life, make sure to follow him on Instagram. You don’t want to miss any of his pancake sessions or heavy squat workouts, trust me. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Bless the gym!
Tue, 15 July 2014
Info on our Road To Regionals programming.
Tue, 15 July 2014
Info on our upcoming 6 Month Muscle Gain Challenge.
Wed, 9 July 2014
This week on Barbell Shrugged we are joined by the incomparable Travis Mash, high level strength coach, world champion powerlifter, and to be honest, one of our absolute favorite human beings in the entire world.
If Travis’ name sounds familiar it’s for a good reason. This is his second appearance on the show. The first time around on episode 97 we got the chance to talk about the barbell and all of the life lessons it has taught us. As good as that show was, I think that round two is even better. Really, this might be our best strength discussion to date.
For me it’s easy to see what makes Travis such an incredible coach. First, he is incredibly kind and empathetic. Right when you meet him you feel like you’ve known him all along. And when you see his work you realize just how important it is for a coach to build strong relationships with their athletes. That connection makes extraordinary strength possible.
He’s kind, but he’s also been around for a really long-time (it’s OK, we’re all getting older together). He’s performed at a very high level in both weightlifting and powerlifting for many years, has even made a run at national level bobsledding. More impressive still, he’s been coaching athletes and directly applying that hard-earned wisdom for over fifteen years. So, when Travis makes a recommendation on how you can get stronger, you listen.
This show was running over with but nuggets and pearls, but a few super useful lessons jump right out at me. First, competitive fitness athletes still have a lot they could learn from powerlifters and bodybuilders. One of the best examples is the row. Above any other assistance movement, this is what the average Crossfitter needs most of all. Barbell rows, chest supported rows, one-arm pulls with a super-duper heavy kettlebell, any kind will do. It hardly matters, as long as they are done often. Forget what you’ve heard, there’s nothing more functional than adding pulling power.
Lessons, lessons, how about the importance of patience? If there’s one key mistake that’s keeping a lot of people weak it’s this - They don’t give the adaptations time to set in! They start out on a mission to get strong, because that’s what they need most of all. But they freak out when results don’t come immediately, or when their WOD times fall off a little bit.
This is all by design.
Real strength takes time. As Travis will tell you it’s a lot like working a blue collar job, like a construction gig. At first the work is just too much. You’ll hate it, no doubt. Recovery will be a struggle. You will feel like shit while everyone around you runs around like the work is no big deal. That’s when you need to hold on and be patient.
The secret to getting really, super-duper strong is allowing that adaptation to take hold. You have to fight for it. The training should be really hard, but just like a bulletproof and sun-hardened construction worker, you need time to get used to it.
Be patient! Find great programming and stick with it, don’t jump around. You will get faster, more efficient, and strong as hell as soon as you earn it. You just can’t be afraid of walking through hell first. Take your ass-beatings first, that’s the only way this critical and enduring adaptation can take hold.
The final lesson for those looking to get really strong is this - you have to conquer the fear of lifting really heavy weights. You have to have the courage to put weight on that barbell. That’s why having a great coach like Travis is so important. You need someone, as he would say, “…To call you out when you’re being pussy.” You also need to surround yourself with great training partners who are much stronger than you, just to change your standards.
If there’s a secret to training at a place like Westside Barbell it’s just that. Programming matters. You need certain tools and ideas. But never underestimate the power of a brutal training environment. These place are less like gym and more like iron forges. The whole point is to raise the expectations under pressure.
That’s also the whole idea behind Travis’ top secret chain squatting program. There’s actually no secret to it. It works because it breaks down the fear. You start to get used to the way really heavy weight feels, and in time you start to believe that you can actually lift it. Once that belief starts you begin to train harder and without artificial limitations. And once that happens, watch out. There’s no telling what you might be able to lift.
For more from Travis Mash and the coaching services he offers make sure to check out his website atMashElite.com,
Travis, we’re lucky to know you, dude. When can we go for round 3?
Sun, 6 July 2014
Wed, 2 July 2014
Lindsey is in an incredible position. First, she’s one of the very first women ever to sign onto a professional fitness team. Better yet, the Reign, and all other founding members of the National Professional Grid League, are actually coed.
That’s right. For the first time there is a mainstream professional sports league featuring women and men competing together on the very same field, or in this case, the very same “Grid.”
In competitive fitness, right from the start, men and women have both received equal spotlight and attention. The same can’t said for any other professional sports league, or quite frankly, our culture as a whole. Despite our progress, most playing fields are anything but level.
The truth is that women and men are equally capable when it comes to moving heavy barbells, crushing races, and entertaining an arena full of cheering fitness fans. Also, as Lindsey herself pointed out, those incredibly fit, powerful and beautiful ladies - the coed angle - might just be the NPGL’s secret weapon when it comes to breaking into brand new markets.
That’s really the most exciting part of this entire movement. Consider the classic sports fan with their weekend fantasy leagues and pick-up games, or maybe the aspiring young athlete who might not fit in or dig traditional sports like Football, Baseball or Basketball. Think of the influence an athlete like Lindsey could have on the average young girl who’s seeing a strong, successful woman slam barbells in front of a packed arena for the very first time.
That’s a damn incredible thing, indeed.
In all fairness it’s too early to know. There are no guarantees that the Grid thing will catch on. But it just might, and that could mean an incredible future where Eleiko barbells start arriving under Christmas trees during the holidays, right alongside shiny new bicycles and video game consoles (one can hope!). It could also mean waves of brand new, inspired clients pouring into local gyms and boxes, which is great for absolutely everyone.
That’s really the main point now. There’s no room in this movement for a scarcity point of view. It’s time that we stop trying to compare Crossfit and the NPGL, because really, they are fundamentally different things.
As Lindsey points out, “Crossfit is about finding the fittest men and women in the world, period. The NPGL is all about putting on a show. It’s spectator friendly. It’s fast moving. It’s entertainment, like the NBA or NHL.”
She nails the point, concluding, “The Crossfit Games are basically like the Olympics. There are players who play in both - The NBA and the Olympics, for example - But nothing can replace the Olympics.”
We agree. In our point of view the emergence of professional fitness can only create more great opportunities for athletes, coaches and business owners. That’s really all that matters.
To learn more about the NPGL make sure to check out our interview with league founder and CEO, Tony Budding. We also had a great chat with NPGL President Jim Kean, where we talk all about the technology and future of this brand new sport.
Lindsey, please keep inspiring folks and kicking ass! We look forward to seeing it all unfold.