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December 2015


By | Coaching, Fitness | No Comments

Last week, I attended a USA Weightlifting coaching clinic. I learned proper techniques for weightlifting movements such as squats, deadlifts, cleans, jerks, and snatches. I also learned a lot about effective coaching in the sport of weightlifting. But, most of all, I learned that I still have a lot to learn about this sport–both as a coach and as an athlete.

Why weightlifting? When I was a freshman at UCLA, I was a walk-on with the women’s varsity swim team. These ladies are not kidding around! They train 20+ hours every week–not just in swimming, but also in yoga, weightlifting, running, and other “dryland” workouts. That was where I was first introduced to the barbell, and I loved it! But, I decided not to continue swimming after my first season, and so my weightlifting career was on pause. A couple of years later, this time as a triathlete, I came back to my old friend Mr. Barbell, and was instantly reminded of the extreme soreness that he inflicts after long absences. We hung out a few times, and I felt extra strong again, but then I graduated from college and bid farewell to my friend once again.

This fall, I started to miss those good old times, and decided to buy a used barbell on Craigslist. I figured that if I wanted to start lifting again, I’d better learn to do it correctly. Plus, I enjoy broadening my general knowledge for my personal coaching and training.

Who is weightlifting for? I am so glad that you asked! Weightlifting is not just for bodybuilders and CrossFitters. You don’t have to enter weightlifting competitions or go on the Paleo diet to enjoy the benefits of weightlifting. It is actually an excellent strength, power activity for everyone–triathletes, runners, swimmers, cyclists, numerous other athletes, and those seeking general fitness. You can add weightlifting into your training schedule and expect to see improved performance because it utilizes muscle groups and movements that are key components of pretty much every other sport. Another carry-over of weightlifting into other sports is improved technique and injury prevention via strengthening weak or under-used muscles and improvement of balance, stability and coordination.

But, isn’t weightlifting dangerous? It can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Please don’t just show up at your gym, pick up a barbell, and start lifting because you once saw a weightlifting competition on TV. Ideally, you should learn proper technique and skills from a certified weightlifting coach. A qualified coach can assess your readiness to lift and take you through each movement step-by-step at an appropriate pace.

In one of my favorite parts of the coaching course, our instructor showed us a scientific research-based table documenting sport-related injury rates.  Interestingly, weightlifting carried lower injury risk than other sports within the study (Hamill 1994).

Sports Injury Rates (Hamill 1994)
Sport Injuries (per 100 hours)
Soccer (school age) 6.20
UK Rugby 1.92
USA Basketball 0.03
UK Cross Country 0.37
Squash 0.10
US Football 0.10
Badminton 0.05
USA Gymnastics 0.044
USA Powerlifting 0.0027
USA Volleyball 0.0013
USA Tennis 0.001
Weight Training 0.0035 (85,733 hrs)
Weightlifting 0.0017 (168,551 hrs)

What is the difference between Weightlifting and CrossFit? Great question! While I do not mingle with many weightlifters or CrossFitters, I believe that both sports have their unique benefits and drawbacks in terms of fitness goals, environment, etc.

Whether you choose to lift weights, do CrossFit, join a bootcamp class, run, bike, swim, or take up yoga, I hope that you find an activity where you can challenge yourself, have fun, stay fit, and be safe!

Intuitive Eating for Athletes

By | Fitness, Fuel | One Comment

Endurance athletes typically want to be fit and healthy, right? If you are against being fit and healthy, then you probably don’t want to be exercising 10-20+ hours every week. Sorry to burst your bubble.

So, if endurance athletes (runners, swimmers, cyclists, triathletes, cross country skiers, etc) want to be fit and healthy, then we probably care about what we put into our bodies. We probably understand that proper nutrition is a key component of our training program. We think of food as something that sustains, nourishes, and fuels us. Of course, there are some exceptions:

  1. Athletes who don’t really care about their performance…or is that just an excuse to eat poorly?
  2. Athletes who partake in endurance sport for the sole purpose of eating high volumes of calorically-dense foods
  3. Athletes who really do not think about food, and often “forget” to eat (what!?)
  4. Athletes with disordered eating behaviors

Most endurance athletes have access to nutritious foods everyday. I assume this because if you are participating in an endurance sport, and can afford to spend some leisure time training and some extra cash on your next race or piece of training equipment, then you are likely able to purchase an appropriate quantity and quality of food for yourself. I am not saying that all endurance athletes have plenty of spare cash to throw down on a $50 salad from the Whole Foods salad bar, but we can probably buy potatoes and carrots at the grocery store. What excuse do we have to not invest in our health and our training by fueling our bodies well?

Another commonality of endurance athletes is that we tend idolize leanness. The idea is that if one has a leaner body, he/she will be faster. This is true to a degree, so long as shedding excess bodyfat does not come at the cost of strength, health, or general well-being. Yet, competitive endurance athletes tend to put tremendous pressure on themselves to perform, and are at risk for developing disordered eating habits because of this tendency to obsess about leanness as a performance enhancer. Preoccupation with body weight and composition can lead to fear of food, food restriction, and clinical disorders such as anorexia nervosa. On the other end of the spectrum, an athlete’s self-induced restriction may lead to obsession with food, overeating (binging), then guilt, then more restriction–not a fun pattern. Disordered eating thoughts and habits do not work in the athlete’s favor, and can cause undesirable effects including decline in athletic performance. Extreme dietary restriction can lead to decreased immune function, delayed recovery from training, general fatigue, anxiety, and injury. Female athletes may develop symptoms of the Female Athlete Triad, including bone weakening and menstrual irregularity.

As a student of nutrition, I want to arm myself with the knowledge of where my food comes from, what each food is made of, why I need each nutrient, and how my body processes and uses these nutrients. I am fascinated by the human body, especially as it relates to nutrition and athletics. As an athlete, I value putting quality fuel into my body, but I also value being human. To me, being human means a lot more than just our physical eating and drinking and training. Being human is also mental, emotional, and spiritual. It involves relationships– with our families, with our friends, with our environment, with our creator, with ourselves, with our bodies, with our minds, and even with our food! I believe that we need to have balance when fueling our bodies merges with fueling our various relationships.

For example, if I am having tea with a friend, and she offers me a cookie, I do not have to shun her because her cookies are made with sugar and butter. I can eat a cookie if my body wants a cookie. But this poses a problem: how do I know what my body wants? Most of us have ignored our body’s natural cravings, hunger signals, and even satiety signals, for a long time. Instead of tuning into our bodies, we look to labels, scales, articles, Dr. Oz, and even our own made-up ideas, to determine what, when, and how much we should or shouldn’t eat. How did we manage to eat when we were kids, before we “learned” how to eat? I think that the real question we should ask ourselves is “how and when did we manage to unlearn our inborn eating patterns?” When did we let everyone else decide how many calories we should eat and what we should weigh? When did we even start caring about calories and weight at all? Weren’t we less anxious about food and our bodies when we were kids?


“We are all born instinctual eaters but it is the aging process, along with social and family influences, that diverts attention away from how our body feels when it is hungry. Babies cry when they are hungry. This is the body’s response to physical hunger. Somewhere throughout the developmental process, the ability to listen to the body’s instinctual eating cues are lost or forgotten…” –Bob Seebohar, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., C.S.C.S., Sports Nutrition For Young Athletes

I don’t think that healthy eating is as simple as “good food” vs. “bad food”. I also don’t think it’s as simple as eating X number and/or burning Y number of calories everyday. I think that our bodies are so complex that we can’t tell them what they need or how they should look. I think it’s time we go back to trusting our bodies like we did when we were kids–when we ate two bites of that hot dog because it smelled good and then put it down because we weren’t hungry anymore. I think it’s time to tune into our innate hunger and satiety signals.

What I’m NOT saying:

  • I’m NOT saying that Intuitive eating is easy: While listening to our bodies was easy when we were kids, it has probably been a long time since we really listened to our bodies. It takes a while to fully learn to trust our bodies again and to adapt to eating intuitively. There will be slip ups, but keep trusting!
  • I’m NOT saying that every athlete can eat every type of food: Some athletes have food allergies, intolerances, and diseases which make them unable to eat particular foods and remain healthy. These athletes can still practice intuitive eating with the foods that they can eat.
  • I’m NOT saying that we should eat junk food all of the time: Actually, if we are constantly craving junk food, it is more likely the result of feeling restricted. In order to really stop the cravings, we need to really stop restricting ourselves. Also, the more that we practice listening to our bodies, I believe that we eventually start to crave more wholesome foods!
  • I’m NOT saying that athletes should fully rely on perceived hunger and thirst signals during training and racing without regard to calorie/carbohydrate/fluid numbers: When training and competing for long hours, it is important to have a sports nutrition plan. However, in case the plan goes awry due to unforeseen issues, it is good to have the ability to know and understand your body’s signals.

Additional Intuitive Eating Resources: