Appreciation Hour

Hi Jocelyn (and Company),

I know this has been a hell of a year, but I just wanted to reach out and say thank you.
Coming to PDXStrength when I moved to St. Johns a little over a year ago was a big leap of faith for me because I had never successfully maintained any kind of fitness in my life. I was inexperienced and out of shape and super nervous, but I always felt so welcomed. All of the coaches were so supportive and pushed me in a way that both challenged me and helped me grow, and the long-time members were so kind. (Even just a month ago, I was lagging way behind in a workout with a ton of running, and the other members in my class ran an extra 400m with me so I wasn’t doing it alone. I can’t even express how much it meant to me!)
And now, a year in, I feel like a totally different person! I’m so much more confident than I used to be, and I love what my body can do. Sometimes, it’s little things like being able to pick up the 40lb box of cat litter without breaking a sweat, sometimes it’s doing a bear crawl without being winded, and sometimes it’s something like being able to push through a lift successfully after I failed three times because I got too in my head about it.
On top of all of that, PDXStrength has really made me feel like a part of the St. Johns community. I run into fellow members all over town, and they always say hello! Especially in COVID times, sometimes, the folks at the gym are the only other living beings I see, and I look forward to it more than anything.
I know with this partial lockdown being imminent, this puts a metric fuckton of stress on you, so I wanted you to know that I’m a ride-or-die member of this strength tribe and I’m here for the long haul. I love your Zoom workouts, Nigel’s programming, Dylan’s silly anatomical doodles, Laura’s endless cheer and optimism, Paul’s fun facts, Courtney’s ability to push me through cardio workouts even when I think I’m going to die, and Christie’s calm and supportive demeanor. What you and the coaches are doing is really incredible, and I’m so lucky to be a part of such an amazing community – y’all are the best.
Have a lovely weekend,
Nikki Harris
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20 Rep Squats – The Exercise Where… 

Blog 42 – 20 Rep Squats – The Exercise Where… 

… everything is awful, and the total reps don’t matter. (Am I supposed to put quotes around that with parenthetical inserts to appropriately reference Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, or did I just imply the appropriate reference by asking? Hopefully, their lawyers aren’t reading this or, if they are, can appreciate the attempt.) 

Anyway, back to the blog. I’ve talked previously about how little prescribed reps actually matter (All of you who are new to my blogs and opinions, don’t jump down my throat yet.) and what we are really searching for is a stimulus that drives adaption in our bodies. Reps just happen to be the easiest way to communicate that intended stimulus. This also means that the number of reps MUST be an over prescription because if we prescribed too few reps then we aren’t driving said adaptions. And with varying levels in ability, experience, body types, et al. in every class, that prescription must be an over prescription for all levels. (for those Smarty Pants out there asking smugly, “What about a 1-rep max?” This also applies there. Think about it this way: some times we hit it and sometimes we don’t but we go through the process to drive adaption regardless of a completed rep. 

If this is true (and it is) then as we expand the total number of reps to say, I don’t know … 20, reps become less and less important because there will be more variation to where each member in a given class/group arrives at the appropriate stimulus. Some may get there at 12, some at 15, some at 19. Remember the goal is over stimulation to drive adaption. If we get to 20 and think to ourselves that you could have gone heavier, then you DEFINITELY should have. I will also acknowledge that it is hard to come to class and interpret the numbers on the board – frankly, that’s the coaches’ job – but as always I will continue to give you permission to take control of how your body feels. 

This, then, begs the question “what should a “20 rep squat” feel like?” Well here are a couple checkpoints that may be helpful:

  • *unracks weight* “WOOO! 20 Reps! Here we go.”
  • *a few reps in* “20?! Shit, I could do 40! This feels great!”
  • *a few more reps in* “Uh oh.”
  • *loses control of breathe* “WTF, Nigel?!”
  • *time slows down … legs start to feel like Jell-O* “How in the world am I going to finish?”
  • *after a few more reps* “I got this. 1 at a time. Just breathe.”
  • *finishes a few more reps* “That was awful. I can’t wait ‘til next week!”

If you hit all of those phases and get to 17 reps, you have ABSOLUTEY done the prescribed work. Remember, the goal in training is to test the boundaries of what you are capable NOT to repeat safe patterns. It shouldn’t (and can’t) be about utilizing a loading just to say we accomplished the rep scheme. That will never drive the adaptions we think it will. 

And believe me, Nigel knows that as well or better than anyone. He’s not giving you a gold star for total reps. He’s giving you a gold star for effort. 

D

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Blog 41 – Dr. Jekyll and Mx. Hyde

Blog 41 – Dr. Jekyll and Mx. Hyde

With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be pertinent to write about all things Goblins and Ghouls.

Though I am personally not one to dress up for this particular holiday, there are times when I find donning a new outfit or persona highly beneficial. And since this is PDX Strength’s blog, one such example of this is in the gym.

It shouldn’t come as much surprise to anyone that’s taken a class from me that I (the coach) am a huge fan of failure. BUT what may or may not come as a surprise is that I (the person) fear failure as much as any one else. Let’s face it any number of things can send little goosebumps (or, as I recently learned, some people may know them as goosepimples — seriously if you call them goosepimples we need to have a conversation…) running all over your body as the little devil/goblin/ghoul/grim reaper/troll in your ear reminds you of the impending doom that’s just an attempt away. 1 rep maxes? SCARY. New gymnastics skills? SPOOKY. High box jumps. FREAKY AF (not to mention sometimes the gym version of Hollywood gore).

There are many tricks that one can use to overcome this little devil. Positive self-talk, a little lifting routine, a hearty smack from your lifting partner… You’ve seen (or tried) all of these in some way shape or form, and all can be employed at different times to your benefit. But that’s not really the thing we’re talking about. No, the thing we’re talking about is approaching the bar as a different person (or being, depending on what you’re in to) and finding your Mx. Hyde. Need extra strength? Be a superhero (but “no capes,” as Edna Mode says). Need to jump out of the gym? A spaceship. Need to swing from the rings like you never have before? An orangutan. 

It doesn’t actually matter what you pick here. It matters that you have a moment to yourself in which the little angel (or other existential being that suits you) on the other shoulder beats the shit out of the doubt that’s entered your mind. And you go berserker or, to circle back to the title, all Mx. Hyde on whatever task is in front of you.

Be careful though. The more time you spend as whatever mystical super being fits your alter ego, the more it over takes you. Then the only thing to fear is what you might become.

D

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Blog 40 – FORTY! 

Blog 40 – FORTY! 

I probably start every 10 blogs out by stating, “when I started writing these, I didn’t think I would make it to X blogs.” And yet here we are again! FORTY!

Since this is clearly a special occasion, a blog-iversary if you will, I’ll save you from another blog about Fall Goals (but seriously talk to your coach, check out the goal pole, etc.), and instead I’ll go back to one of my favorite dead horses – REST, BABY!!!!!

If you were fortunate enough to check the website on Tuesday or show up for Group Strength on Wednesday, you may have had a mini freak out/fit of rage/any other “WTF, Nigel?” meme-worthy reaction at the thought of squatting for 20 reps (It’s going to be ok). But before I get back on my soapbox of rest, let’s take a minute to reflect on all of the things that the return to programmed strength cycle signifies:

  • Normalcy/regularity
  • Some sort of guarantee (albeit not exactly in our control) that we will be in the gym, lifting heavy shit for the foreseeable future – a special thank you should again be passed out to every member at the gym for doing our best to keep the community safe no matter how sweaty our masks get
  • FUCKING GAINZ – After all, “thick thighs saves lives…” according to Lizzo

For those of you who have allowed me to assault your eyes and brains with my words in previous blogs, you could end your reading here. You know what I’m going to say. We all work out plenty, and don’t recovery enough. And the only thing that tells you that you need to “work harder” is a bullshit fitness industry that continues to cycle and appropriate language around wellness to continue hold a false control over our bodies in order to prioritize the monetary growth of an industry over actual health and wellness.

Now, if you’ve made it this far in the blog, I’m going to validate my claims (without much fact-checking or research of my own) by quoting a doctor. “Which (or “witch” because ‘tis the season) doctor?” Dr. Paul Cooley, of course. 

If you were perhaps on Instagram, and also follow St Johns Physical Therapy (@stjohnspt), you may have also found it apropos that on the same day that Nigel decides that it’s a good day to thrash our legs, Paul also decides to post his on soapbox (pyramid, really) about all things recovery. (Some may say it’s coincidence, others – namely, just me – would say that the universe works in mysterious ways.)

That quote I mentioned earlier, subsequently forgot, and then remembered again after my tangential paragraph above was, “Whether training hard or suffering an injury, all tissues have their own timeline to recover, and the simple things matter the most.” Those simple things were then at the foundation of his pyramid soapbox and started with Mother Nature and Father Time, Nutrition and Hydration, Active Recovery and Sleep, and Passive Recovery. Gimmicks, Fads, and Quackery (or, to lean in to my artistic license to interpret – Bullshit) were at the top, depicting a minimized role in things that actually matter. 

In summation, Nigel has set us on a quest for thick thighs. Paul tells us that the only path that will get us there is to recover properly. Both are topic experts in their own right. And I’m writing this blog to acknowledge that all of us are continuously influenced to follow unfounded bullshit in the name of health. 

The bottom line being – If you want the most of this impending cycle, you also have to grant yourself permission to recover appropriately. 

D

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Ankle Mobility and Strength Exercises

As requested, lets talk about Ankles! We all have em, and most of us have had some type of sprain/twist in the past….
Here are few mobility and strength exercise that I try to sprinkle in my workouts/warmups.
Enjoy! xoxo
pike squats- gentle bounce with straight legs ( feet together) gentle bounce at bottom of squat, lift heels off the ground to get those achilles
band dorsiflexion stretch- use a band or towel and pull your toes toward your shins
knee wall touches- See how far you can bring your foot from the wall, but keeping the knee touching the wall and gently stretch.
downward dog- gently try to get your heels to the floor- you can pedal you feet out too
calf raises- toes out, toes in, feet neutral
single leg calf raises
lateral hops
single leg hops

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As requested, lets talk about Ankles! We all have em, and most of us have had some type of sprain/twist in the past…. ⠀ Here are few mobility and strength exercise that I try to sprinkle in my workouts/warmups. ⠀ Enjoy! xoxo ⠀ ⠀ pike squats- gentle bounce with straight legs ( feet together) gentle bounce at bottom of squat, lift heels off the ground to get those achilles ⠀ ⠀ band dorsiflexion stretch- use a band or towel and pull your toes toward your shins⠀ ⠀ knee wall touches- See how far you can bring your foot from the wall, but keeping the knee touching the wall and gently stretch. ⠀ ⠀ downward dog- gently try to get your heels to the floor- you can pedal you feet out too ⠀ ⠀ calf raises- toes out, toes in, feet neutral ⠀ ⠀ single leg calf raises⠀ ⠀ lateral hops⠀ ⠀ single leg hops⠀ ⠀ #anklemobility #ankleprehab #anklerehab #anklerecovery #strongankles

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