Choose the Right Gym for You and Your Needs
By Basil “Chip” Tydings
Is your gym doing for you what it should? Your gym should help you make significant gains but your gym should also help you recover. Injuries happen, especially when we work hard to grow. Ideally your gym should be able to help through all stages of training, even when there are times when you have to take a few steps back.
Now is about the time when we, as paddlers, should begin to think about our goals for 2015. Even though it is still hot as the blazes outside winter isn’t that far off…The end of race season looms. What are your plans to stay in shape when the nor’easters start to blow in and the water reaches full-on neoprene temperatures? If you have athletic goals focused on increasing performance then you are probably going to want to make gains in strength. To make profitable gains you will probably need some guidance. Chances are you aren’t doing it right.
It seems so easy to get exercise wrong. No matter how much knowledge we accumulate over the course of our years or how much time we put into execution of a training regimen, mistakes can still happen. Is your gym capable of helping you through those potential mistakes? When you push too hard does your gym have the necessary means to help you rehabilitate? Does your current routine help you make gains? I thought I knew what I was doing when it came to working with weights but all I was doing, for years, was more like urinating into the wind.
When planning for 2014’s race season, I knew I needed to work on improving my overall athleticism if I wanted to stay competitive. I swam to try and improve my wind, I paddled the Ocean City Inlet with Ron Gossard to try and work on stability in the ocean and I piddled around with weights and TRX to try and deal with strength. I didn’t know if I was getting stronger but I was going through the motions in order to try and maintain what I already had. After the Cold Stroke Classic, I discovered that I needed to do more. I needed to make some serious gains. As my wife and I were planning a move back to a Midwest that was completely iced over I decided Winter 2014 was the perfect time to try and work on improving my strength. I didn’t just want to join a gym or a YMCA with a bunch of models as personal trainers; I wanted a guide, a coach. How does one choose proper guidance? Here is how I did:
Years ago, before the Midwest became home, I used to watch WEC fights on Versus and came across an exciting bantamweight named Eddie Wineland. I always enjoyed seeing where fighters came from and saw he was from Chesterton, Indiana. That didn’t mean anything to me for a while but then the fact that Eddie was from Chesterton, Indiana became a huge deal when I found myself living 9 miles away from Chesterton in Ogden Dunes, Indiana.
I have always thought that MMA was very similar to SUP but without getting punched and kicked. As paddlers, we use our whole bodies. We need to be able to engage a large percentage of our mass in order to: go fast, stay upright, and endure ever-changing conditions for a number of miles. Our muscles need to be strong in order to move the paddle through the water quickly (over and over and over and over….), keep us standing on an un-balanced surface, and remain mentally sharp and focused to reach our destination. MMA fighters demand so much from their bodies so I thought it would be an awesome idea to try and train where Eddie, one of the most exciting bantamweight fighters in the world trains.
I googled Eddie and saw some pictures from his fights. The insignia for ASC-Applied Strength and Conditioning was on one of his ring banners. I googled Applied Strength and Conditioning Chesterton, Indiana and sent them a Facebook message explaining what I wished to achieve. Whomever it was on the other end of the message said they could definitely help me out. Three weeks later we moved back to Indiana and I met Jason Gusic, the owner of ASC.
The first time I visited ASC I saw guys pulling sleds in the parking lot, girls busting out pull ups and deadlifts, and chains hanging off the ends of bars with people bench pressing. I had no idea what was going on. Jason explained that ASC follows the Westside Barbell Training Method. The technical aspects of the Westside Barbell way of doing things seemed a bit complicated when Jason first explained them to me but once I started executing the principles developed by Louie Simmons (founder of Westside Barbell) the practices seemed to make perfect sense. Making gains in strength is based on common sense and Westside Barbell seems to combine common sense and resistance resulting in a formula that produces positive results. During my first session I was brought into the same workout that Eddie went through in preparation for a fight, but with different resistance of course. The workout was great. The whole week of upper body and lower body efforts based on percentages and accommodating resistance felt awesome. Three days in I knew this was the right place to be.
However, once everything started feeling right and going well I got to excited and sent my back into conniption fits by doing too much too early. With my lower back issues I should NOT do deadlifts and I went after deadlifts with reckless abandon. I felt I had the hang of things so I went off on my own and screwed up. I was out for a week horizontal, lame, and scared I had really messed up. Once I could shuffle about I went back to begin all over again. And here is what is so great about ASC. The equipment is in place so if you get hurt you can work at healing yourself. If you hurt your back there is the Reverse Hyper Extension that gets new fluid moving around the spine. If you hurt your shoulders there is the bamboo bench bar from which you hang kettlebells that will shake all that ails you right on out. If you hurt your legs there is the belt squat machine that not only builds strength but engages the whole leg and therefore gets new fluids moving through any affected areas. And these are only a few of the items available to members who need to do some re-habbing. ASC is by no means the biggest gym in town but all you could ever need to make yourself better is there. This equipment is expensive, yet my gym has these machines in place. You won’t see these re-hab machines in a lot of big corporate gyms yet ASC has them. This is what I mean by asking the question: is your gym doing for you what it should? My gym is willing to spend the money to make sure that its members are able to pursue goals and fix what might ail them. You can get through both your peaks and your valleys at ASC.
Peaks and valleys are ever present in training. One of the best things about the Westside Barbell system is that after a short time your valleys will be better than the peaks you experienced in past training sessions. When I injured my back this winter I was able to come back and after two weeks of following the Westside Barbell Conjugate Method I was able to beat my all time max bench by 10lbs. At 19 I benched 255 and at 44 I benched 265. This happened in five weeks, including about six days off due to injury. I felt like the last 10 years of my gym time had been benefiting the gyms I joined rather than my own body. I don’t think I was doing anything bad I was just missing out on a lot of gains I should have been making. Make sure when you are involved in a training program that you are making gains, not just going through the motions and paying a membership fee.
Applied Strength and Conditioning is not your Planet Fitness nor is it your YMCA. There is no sexy sign hanging over the front entrance to draw attention. Jason’s idea for owning a gym and not advertising at all is that he knows “the right people will find us.” ASC is the kind of gym that wants members who are serious about bettering themselves; you have to be serious about making gains or the place is not for you. That being said, the gym is for everyone who wants to work hard at bettering themselves no matter what the reason is for such. I have received a lot of help from other members and been turned on to a lot of new exercises that really seem to help my overall athleticism. Finding ASC has been a great thing in a year that has been full of roadblocks. There are more gyms like ASC out there; you just need to do your research and find them. Good, well-informed trainers make for good gyms. Don’t get sucked into the deals many corporate gyms offer. This is your body we are talking about!
2014 has not been the year I thought it would be, in terms of being on the water paddling. Life has gotten in the way of my time on the water. Life means logistics, prioritizing, bad-decision making, and injuries. My injuries have occurred when I mad bad decisions. My injuries are the result of ignoring what I had been told and trying to do too much at the wrong time. Such foolishness indeed! Luckily I found the place that can help me through my stupidity. I hope you have the same resources available to you. Your gym should have the means to not only aid your progress but help you through the times when you need to regress.
Paddling is supposed to be a sport of longevity. Make sure you do your best all year long to keep it so!
For more information on Westside Barbell check out:
If you would like to check out ASC and get in touch with Jason Gusic about purchasing Westside Barbell equipment and finding out more about Westside Barbell training methods check out: