Project Slappy: My quest to become a better athlete at 37 (post 1)

World famous social-political activist Jerry Rubin wrote a fantastic book about his journey through self-actualization called, Growing (Up) at 37. In the book, Rubin tries a variety of self-help methods and programs from yoga to rolfing, Est (which you remember from The Americans) and carrot juice diets. I too am 37, we’re on COVID quarantine, and I decided to use myself as a test dummy for not only mental-emotional improvement but also athletic improvement.

READ MORE ABOUT MY JOURNEY TO SUCKING LESS AT SPORTS…

I am not a good athlete. I’m not naturally gifted. I lost the DNA lottery when it comes to sports. I was a bad baseball player, an above average hockey goalie, and a mediocre football player. 40 yard dashes, vertical jumps and catching objects has never been my forte. I love sports- MMA, football, baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer… I like most if not all sports. But I am just not very good at them. I didn’t play in college, and I basically starting coaching as soon as I could (19 years old).

So what has been my process? A little bit of self exploration and a lot of reading and watching. I decided once we went on quarantine that I would stop just coaching movement and would start to participate. Kurt Hester drove me to this as he believes a great S&C coach can perform and model field movements for his athletes. But I also just got tired of being slow.


Getting faster

I started using Dale Baskett’s Godfather of Speed program with my players in January of 2014, but not with myself until March of 2020. When I first started sprinting my lower back and hamstrings just couldn’t take it. I had to wrap my right hamstring before speed camp. I was lifting, but not in a true gym. I was doing the best I could under quarantine with a sandbag, kettlebell, two weights of dumbbells, a medicine ball and two gallon jugs of water.

After completing Dale Baskett’s 12 sessions in 12 weeks, and incorporating some change of direction work into my workouts, I was starting to move better and feel better. I took 2 weeks off from speed camp and COD and began to use tempo sprints. I ran three times per week for two weeks adding a quarter onto each session until I hit four quarters. I would run six, 20 yard sprints per quarter, with a 35 second rest between sprints. Each quarter I gave myself a four minute break, warmed back up, and started over.

Barbell acclimation

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Week 1 of barbell acclimation

I then began a nine week journey into acclimating back to the use of a barbell. This is strictly a power-speed and speed-power based program built around the power clean, power clean & jerk, and power snatch and around a five-rep volume.

Each week I added more and more components, splitting my week into three lift sessions. Monday would be focused on the clean, Wednesday on the jerk, and Friday on the snatch. During that time I would sprint on Tuesday and Saturday and do COD work on Thursday while doing yoga on Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays.

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Week 6 of barbell acclimation

Each week I also progressed through Dale’s speed camp sessions while getting myself closer to performing the power clean again, and eventually a power clean & jerk and power snatch. I began to use Reflexive Performance Reset or “RPR” before my workouts, which I recommend to everyone. Before Week 1 I tested my 20-yard dash, I ran a 3.20. After Week 6 I tested again, I ran a 3.00. The only real changes to my program was the addition of the barbell and RPR.

The three tests I will perform when I complete the power acclimation phase are the 20-yard dash, a 10-10 no touch shuttle, and a vertical jump. After Week 7 my 10-10 was a 4.43 and my VJ hit the 5th rung on our tester but I have no idea how high that really is. I just plan to jump higher than the 5th rung after Week 9, and again after Triphasic Training.

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Week 9 of barbell acclimation


Change of Direction Drills

Because I half-assed came up with these myself / stole them from public sources (Dale Baskett in American Football Monthly, Kurt Hester in Combine 2.0, UNC’s linebackers coach, as well as random other sites and books) I feel okay sharing them. I will not share Dale’s speed information. Sorry, go register for his site, it’s pretty damn cheap ($20 a month?).

My COD/Agility work is progressive and builds upon itself. It starts as more COD than agility. In other words, I start off with a closed-ended, cone-directed program. That is called “Session 1.” The “Square Up” is the only agility drill in S1. It requires a coach to signal in order for it to be Agility vs COD. You can do it COD, too.

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“Session 2” incorporates more agility or open-ended / read and react properties than S1. In S2, 3 of the 6 drills are Agility and 3 of the 6 are COD. The jumps are all COD. In my weight lifting programming I do different hops and death drops and once acclimated I feel like I can safely perform these jumps.

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“Session 3” can be 100% open-ended and read-and-react. A coach should be necessary but you can do them on our own as COD. The progression is complete by S3 and we’re closer to football specific movements (I’m a football coach) than S1 and S2. This gets us closer to “peaking” in Triphasic Training.

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I recommend if you’re going to block out 9-weeks as a training block to incorporate COD/Agility work around Week 4. That gives you three weeks of two speed sessions a week and then six weeks of one speed and one COD/Agility sessions. This allows you to program two active recovery days on your schedule (read: yoga and meditation).


Where are we now?

Results

I’m through seven weeks of barbell acclimation and have tested a 3.00 in the 20-yard dash, a 4.43 in the 10-10 no touch shuttle, and hit the 5th rung on our VJ tester (I have no idea how high that really is).

But how do I feel?

Since my hamstring healed up from the first week of sprinting back in March, I have pulled one muscle. I had a calf strain early on in the acclimation to barbell training. I think my body was saying “SLOW DOWN” as I was really excited to be back doing Olympic lifting, or at least the parts-of-whole of Olympic lifting.

Having been invested in almost two months of RPR, barbell training, sprinting, COD/Agility, yoga and some light sparring (heavy bag and/or against Annie)- I have felt really good. I still require voodoo floss now and then but Ibuprofen has been few and far between.

What am I eating?

I’m eating and drinking a lot of the same things I always did. I’m trying to drink two gallons of water a day, a black coffee in the morning, and a green tea in the afternoon. I drink a morning smoothie every day (spinach, banana, strawberry, whey protein powder and water). I’m still eating a bagel and cream cheese (hey, I’m a northerner at heart), sandwiches, pizza once a week, and some chicken wings when I’m lucky. I’m drinking less alcohol, however. I’m feeling pretty good for a 37 year old that is trying to train like a college athlete.

What’s next?

After my final testing of “barbell acclimation” in two weeks, I will begin Cal Dietz’s Triphasic Training model. I will spend 9 weeks utilizing his ideas with my own twist, of course. I’m not an Olympic or Division-1 FBS Power 5 athlete (he is the S&C coach at the University of Minnesota). So I have to accommodate to being un-athletic. However, I do plan to use most of his program again.

I will lift on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I will run and do yoga on Tuesday and Thursday. I will spar on Saturday and do yoga on Sunday. It’s a conjugate method which means Monday will be medium load, medium volume. Wednesday will be high load, low volume. Friday will be low load and high volume.

Part 2 of this series will discuss my results from post-Week 9 testing. And what I plan to do in the Triphasic model’s phase 1.