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Thursday 141106 - Rest Day/Open Gym

Initially Joel had planned on doing "Grace" scaled to 95lb. He was worried that he might not be able to finish it under the 8-minute cut-off if he did it at 135lb. After going back and forth with him a bit he eventually settled on doing it as prescribed at 135lb. Well how did he end up? Sub-5 minutes. Great job Joel!
Rest Day Reading

Sue B. found this little gem and passed it on to me. Like we tell you all so often, the little things done consistently, diligently, and over the long-haul will produce exceptional results. Take a read...

Science Has Finally Figured Out How Elite Athletes Best Each Other. Pay Attention. 

By Mark McClusky on LinkedIn

At the elite athlete level there is so very little that separates the person who gets the glory from the one who wonders about what might have been. But more compelling—and more relevant to most of us—is how elites take those small margins and stack them on top of one another to realize big improvement. Dave Brailsford, who helped British Cycling become a world power, calls this "the aggregation of marginal gains."

It’s like the old joke: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Life is about elephant eating for elite athletes. Even if you’re someone who can qualify for an Olympic final, making up those final bits of time can be overwhelming unless you break it down into smaller increments of progress

Improvement accrues like interest. Each day might seem small; each facet might seem like a tiny factor. But add them all up, and you’ve made a real difference. It’s turned British Cycling into one of the most dominant teams in any sport in the world, and it can work for each of us as well.

Data is Power

Peter Drucker’s now-famous quote, “What gets measured gets managed,” is especially true for sports. One of the things that draw many people to sports is that the final evaluation of your performance is so clear cut—just look at the scoreboard or the results sheet. Every day most of us go to work and do our jobs the best way we know how. But there’s no immediate sense of how well we’ve done.

Sports has the opposite problem—the focus on the competitive outcome can sometimes overshadow real process and improvement. But the key to understanding that progress is to collect data on it. Athletes have long been at the forefront of this movement, from keeping training logs to breaking down film, but now, with the wealth of technology we have available to collect and analyze information, the importance of gathering and managing data has never been higher

Plus, there are surprising results simply from gathering information. In the mid-1920s at Western Electric’s manufacturing plant in Cicero, Illinois, the management began an experiment. The lighting in an area occupied by one set of workers was increased so there was better illumination to help them see the telephone relays they were building. Perhaps not surprisingly, workers who had more light were able to assemble relays faster.

Other changes were then made: Employees were given rest breaks. Their productivity increased. They were allowed to work shorter hours. Again, they were more efficient during those hours.

But then something weird happened. The lighting was cut back to normal…and productivity still went up. In fact, just about every change the company made had only one effect: increased worker productivity. After months of tinkering, the work conditions were returned to the original state, and workers built more relays than they did in the exact same circumstances at the start of the experiment.

What was happening? Why was it that no matter what the Hawthorne plant managers did, the workers just performed better? Researchers puzzled over the results, and some still doubt the details of the experiment’s protocols. But the study gave rise to what’s known in sociology as the Hawthorne effect.

The gist of the idea is that people change their behavior—often for the better—when they are being observed (which is why it’s sometimes called the observer effect). Those workers at Western Electric didn’t build more relays because there was more or less light or because they had more or fewer breaks. The Hawthorne effect posits that they built more relays simply because they knew someone was keeping track of how many relays they built. The same holds true with information about our bodies and fitness. Even just the act of collecting the data has power to change our behavior.

The ease with which we can gather data leads to new challenges, especially when it comes to extracting meaningful conclusions from it. But without the data itself, you’ll never know exactly what’s going on. If you don’t track your workouts, if you don’t test your fitness from time to time, you won’t know if you’re wasting your time in the gym, or if you’ve found a routine that really does help you. You’ll never know the results of the ongoing experiment that all of us are engaged in when it comes to our bodies and fitness, and you’ll never have any basis to make informed decisions

Get The Basics Right

Not everything depends on the latest and greatest technology and advances. In fact, a constant refrain from athletes and coaches was that the first—and maybe most important thing—is to make sure that you take care of the basics well.

We’re all drawn to novelty, to the promise that there are breakthroughs that will enable us to move forward in huge leaps and bounds. But that’s not how things usually work in the athletic world; there aren’t a lot of easy huge leaps available to us any more. That means that in some ways, it’s execution of what you know to be true that’s most helpful, and not getting lost chasing some magic bullet.

What does that mean? It means ensuring that your form is correct when you’re doing strength training, not only to help prevent injury, but also to make sure that you’re getting the highest level of benefit from the effort. It means handling the basics of nutrition properly every day, instead of eating poorly and then hoping that supplementation can get you over the hump. It means doing all you can to get a good night’s sleep so you’re recovered optimally, and ready to work as hard as you can the next day.

It’s the great joy and fear about working on the cutting edge of science and performance. Today’s greatest innovations are tomorrow’s baseline, and you have to keep moving forward. That’s the only way to continue our physical and intellectual growth as a species; that’s the only way we’ll continue to run faster, jump higher, and become stronger.