#20 – You, the individual

What sets pro athletes apart from us mere mortals? What lesson did Matt learn from his body’s failure to handle a power skating clinic? What is a power skating clinic?


Hey, everybody! It’s Matt Hsu from Upright Health and welcome to Episode 20 of the Upright Health podcast. Today, we are talking about you, the individual.

So, two weeks ago, I had an experience that I thought was relevant, that I thought was interesting, that was a little discouraging and which, combined with some other observations, made me realize there was a topic that I wanted to talk about with you today. So a couple of weeks ago, I went to a Robby Glantz Power Skating Clinic. And for those who are not familiar (and I don’t expect many of you will be), a Robby Glantz Power Skating Clinic is a clinic that’s put on for hockey players who want to learn how to skate better. It’s for hockey players to learn how to use their edges better, figure out how to get a quicker start, how to skate backwards better — all kinds of good stuff. This guy, Robby Glantz, does clinics all over the country. I’m sure he goes in to Canada. He’s been doing in for as long as I can remember reading hockey magazines. So I finally got a chance to go to one of these clinics as a full grown adult, here in the Bay Area in Redwood City. And it was a three-day clinic. So that meant every single day, we spent about an hour and fifteen minutes doing skating drills. And we did that Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

So what happened to me that I thought would be a good learning opportunity for everybody, was I started off in this three day event by doing a workout. So I did a bunch of heavy squats and did just the normal workout anyway, on Sunday morning. And then went to the clinic Sunday night, skated as hard as I could for an hour and fifteen minutes. And then Monday, I did the same thing. I didn’t work out, but I was training other people. And then in the evening, I went straight to the clinic, stretched a little bit and bam, bam, bam, skate, skate, skate, skate, skate. And then Tuesday, same pattern: skate, skate, skate, skate, skate.

Now, by Monday, I was pretty sore. And it was interesting to me to feel what was getting sore. I actually hadn’t been that sore in a long time. I think the fact that I combined work out with a lot of hard skating for an hour and fifteen minutes made a big difference. And then at the end of clinic Tuesday, my quads (the upper parts of my thighs, where the quads’ attached to the pelvis) were absolutely trashed. They were so painful, I could barely lift my leg up. So both sides, just trying to lift my legs up. It was just so painful. I had to use my arms and hands to try to lift it, when I was taking my… with my legs when I was trying to take my skates off. And I thought, “Oh my god, this is how my hips started going bad. This must be it because I haven’t felt feeling since like high school.”

And then, Tuesday, when I went to skate, it was still pretty bad. I had done a bunch of stretching and smashing to loosen things up. But going and skating again on Tuesday, really got things riled up. My legs were really, really sore. Moving my hips was kind of hard because the muscles that were supposed to control that motion were just shot from overuse. And then I started thinking, “Well, now I can kind of trace back to the roots of where my hip problems first started. Just skating, skating and skating and then never doing any of the recovery work that was necessary to keep my hips happy — to keep my muscles around the hip joint working in a balanced way.” I just never did that. Nobody ever tells you to do that when you’re in middle school or high school. What class is telling you, “Oh, yeah, you need to stretch. You need to smash your quads. You need to stretch out your inner thighs. You need to make sure your medial quads and your adductors don’t get too gunked up and sticky.” Nobody tells you that stuff. But I could feel it after three days in a row of skating that those were the muscles that were having problems and I needed to address them.

So then, just this past week, I was talking with my client Steve — Steve Cadigan, actually. You might know him as a former Exec at LinkedIn. And he was talking with me about tennis, since he is now killing it on the tennis court. And one of the reasons he’s now able to just go so hard on the tennis court is because we’ve really focused on integrating stretching into his routine, making sure that he’s doing tissue work when he needs to do tissue work. You know, doing the things that help your body recover from exertion. I have Steve lift heavy weights. He’s exerting himself on the tennis court. Muscles need a little help. To recover, your body just needs a little help. And so we were having a conversation about this. He was saying, basically, “I can’t believe how much stretching helps. As long as I stretch enough, I play really, really well.” And this guy he was talking to, the former professional tennis player, still really highly ranked for his age group, was saying, “Stretching? I never stretch. Who needs stretching? You just keep hitting balls. You don’t need to stretch!” And this is a guy who’s, I believe, in his seventies, still plays at a really high level and just doesn’t feel any need to stretch whatsoever. He feels like stretching is absolutely pointless, even though he’s playing as much tennis as he is. I believe he gives lessons and he’s just a good tennis player; gifted athletically and never needs to do any sort of recovery work.

So Steven and I were talking about this and it brought up – it really highlighted in my mind — the differences between individuals. And it really, really highlighted how individual differences can drastically affect what you need to do in your training regimen, to make sure your body feels good. For me, I noticed, well if after three days, I’m really feeling this much soreness, then I would never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, be able to be a pro athlete unless I had a ton of years to really acclimate my body to that volume of activity. Just insane amount of training that pro athletes undergo. If you think about like right now, we’ve got the NBA playoffs (which I am not watching of course). We’ve got the NHL playoffs where we’ve got hokey players playing basically every other day, in addition to their off-ice training; in addition to their on-ice practice. These athletes are using their bodies a ton.

And if you look at these guys as a whole, what you’ll find is that a lot of these really great pro athletes are freakish, right? They are athletically gifted. They are really, really coordinated. They are explosive. And they are able to recover a lot better than most of us. That’s why they are the elite athletes. That doesn’t mean that every single one of them recovers at the same rate. Some of them are going to need to do more things to help keep their bodies working well. Some of them will recognize that. Some of them, unfortunately, will not.

But the lesson to learn is that, for you, as an individual, you need to identify how much stretching, how much tissue work, how much strength training is appropriate for you. What works for the pro hockey player or what works for the NFL guy, really might not be a great idea for you — the attorney, or you, working nine to five job at a desk, right? The training regimen that is appropriate for somebody who’s playing tennis five days a week versus the person who has, you know, basically never played a sport, the training regimens is going to be very, very, very different.

And I think that’s something that gets under appreciated for a lot of people who are trying to get a little stronger, trying to get fitter. You know, you read magazines and you see all these different workouts that, you know, “here’s the workout that got Hugh Jackman jacked.” The workout that he’s doing, really, for beginners is probably not gonna work. The workout that Jillian Michaels does might not work well for you. There’s a lot of variables when you’re trying to build your body up. You need to appreciate that your individual variation really matters and can drastically affect your outcomes.

So this also affects research. And I think I’ve talked about this in the past. A lot of research, exercise science research, really any kind of research focused on how bodies react in different things is going to be really, really hard to apply to everybody. Because the way people react to different stimulus is different. The way you react to bench pressing a hundred pounds versus the way my buddy, Josh, bench presses 100 pounds is just going to be totally different. Your body, maybe you’ve never even done a push up; your body is not going to like that hundred-pound bench press. Josh won’t even feel the hundred-pound bench press, right? That’s barely a warm up for him. So you need to appreciate where you’re at and be paying attention, so that as you are developing your body, you are learning what your body needs in order to be better than it is now.

So I hope those ideas help you out if you are on the path to make your body stronger or more mobile. Keep your eyes and your attention on your own individual needs. You can look at other people as kind of a template or starting point for you to think about what your body may or may not need. But really experiment and see what happens. As I’ve talked about it in the previous episode, you may run into failures; you may run into times like I did, where your body just can’t handle the volume (at least that first time) and you’ll need to kind of slow things down a little bit. Maybe back off the throttle and figure out what you need to do to make it possible for you to do handle that volume or to handle that exercise.

So anyway, appreciate who, you, the individual are. Appreciate your individual variables; the things that affect you; how much recovery help you need. And remember that pain sucks; life shouldn’t.


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