Sport Check and 2XU teamed up and put together an Instagram contest where you had to tag Sport Check and 2XU along with specific hashtags for a chance to win a grand prize. A part of me always thought that nobody actually wins these contests, but I always enter every once in a while…Well not only do people actually win, I was one of the 6 winners! My prize was a once in the life time opportunity to train at the Canadian Sports Institute of Ontario (CSIO) in Toronto, with legendary trainers Krisjon Vargas from Canada Basketball, and Chris Joyner (C.J.) from the Toronto Blue Jays.
The 2XU Training Camp Experience was a fully immersive 2 and a half day experience that was designed to emulate what it is like to train as an elite athlete. And like elite athletes all my flights, accommodations, and food would be taken care of, along with a bunch of free swag.
When I got to my hotel room I was pleasantly surprised, to see 2XU gear strewn across the bed. The pile of gear included 1 T-shirt, 1 pair of shorts, 2 pairs of compression tights (workout, and recovery), 1 compression shirt, 3 pairs of compression socks (2 ankle socks, 1 pair of calf recovery socks), 1 hat, and a $50 gift card to Sport Check. I was stoked at how much gear I received, because 2XU is truly at the top of the line in compression gear and it ain’t cheap.
All the 2XU gear was only the start of the free merchandise. Upon arriving at CSIO, we (myself and the 5 other winners) all received a large 2XU backpack along with, another hat, 1 foam roller, 1 lacrosse ball, 1 spike ball, 1 shaker cup, 1 pack of protein, 1 exercise mat, and 2 elastic exercise bands. Seriously it does not take much for me to get stoked about free stuff and I was over the moon with all the gear I was getting. And this was only the materialistic things; I couldn’t wait to extract all the wisdom I could from C.J. and Krisjon, in the next few days.
Before the training and learning got underway we were given a tour of CSIO. CSIO is a world class facility that was built with the purpose to develop and attract elite athletes in pursuit of competing on the World Stage. The calibre of this facility is top notch and simply stepping foot into the exclusive training area was an honor as numerous banners were strung above the gym depicting Canadian medalists from the Rio 2016 Olympic games, who trained out of CSIO. Such athletes included: Andre De Grasse, Penny Oleksiak, Derek Drouin, and Damien Warner, to name a few.
After the tour and a quick chat with C.J. and Krisjon, we headed down to the weight room. C.J. then ran us all through a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). The FMS is a series of exercises that are used to evaluate your functional movement capability. The screen consists of 7 exercises (1: Deep Squat, 2: Hurdle Step, 3: Inline Lunge, 4: Trunk Stability Pushup, 5: Active Straight-Leg Raise, 6: Shoulder Mobility, and 7: Rotary Stability), and you’ll receive a score of 1-3 on each exercise (1 being poor, 3 being exceptional). A perfect score of 21 is not ideal, as you will always have some muscular imbalances and areas you can improve. A typical score for his athletes (the Toronto Blue Jays) is 14-16 out of 21. As someone who is relatively fit (in my own mind) I was graciously humbled with a score of 12 on the FMS. C.J. did say that he was scoring hard, but this was a good little kick in the butt to remember to incorporate mobility exercises into my training.
In addition to the FMS, C.J. also tested our work capacity. Our work capacity was tested by how long you can hold 75% of your body weight, with a time cap of 2 minutes. I managed 1 minute and 30 s with 150 lbs but beat that less than a week later holding it for 1:56 (I’ll get that 2 minutes Nikki!).
The following days were jam packed with both training sessions and educational sessions.
Our first training session consisted of a long warm up, where we went over numerous foam rolling and lacrosse ball techniques to help loosen up all those tight spots. After the extensive foam rolling session, it was on to some light running and speed work drills to end the warm up.
Now that we were done warming up I could not wait for the workout to start. I fantasized about a shear brutal workout, encompassing all sorts of new moves, that would leave my absolutely thrashed once it was all over…but that wasn’t even close to what we actually did. In the words of Krisjon “Elite athletes train smarter not harder”. Therefore workouts were tailored to our specific needs, as determined by the FMS. The workout consisted of a lot of stability exercises, complimented with functional movement. Now the intensity isn’t quite what I was expecting but that’s not to say these exercises were easy either, they were hard in their own way. For example the two of hardest exercises (for me at least), required you to simply rollover.
Exercise 1: Laying on your back, left arm extended overhead, right arm held vertically up in the air, then roll to your left without engaging your legs, and no swinging of the arms.
Exercise 2: Laying on your back, bring your knees to your chest and grab your feet with soles of your feet facing up (Happy Baby pose in yoga), and now roll to the left, and then back all the way to the right.
These two above exercises humbled me tremendously and really opened my eyes, for what I need to work on. How is that I can run for 3+ hours in the mountains, carrying heavy shit, jumping over walls, crawling through mud…and I can barely even roll over! Now these exercises aren’t going to make or break your race, but as long as your mobility is low, you are not working to your full efficiency or capability.
Thankfully the entire workout wasn’t at a low intensity, as we had to perform a high intensity finisher exercise at the end of each workout. On the first day we hammered out a few sets on the battle ropes, and on the second day we finished with a sled pull circuit. I loved these two finisher workouts. I had never done battle ropes before but always wanted to try it…because it looks bad ass…and it is! I’d love to be able to implement sled pulls and battle ropes into my training more often, but they aren’t the easiest pieces of equipment to come by.
Beyond physical activity, we had a few mini seminars where we heard from a Nutritionist, listened to a product spiel from 2XU, and a discussion on the anatomy of shoes from Krisjon.
Personally I thought the nutritionist was kind of bunk. She gave her 45 min talk covering the basics of eating every 3-4 hours, eat smaller meals, and small snacks throughout the day. Then once her 45 min was up she couldn’t wait to get out the door. I tried to ask her a few questions about, but she was quite short with me and I could tell all she wanted to do was leave.
Learning all about the 2XU brand, and the science behind its development was quite interesting. 2XU is the only compression gear on the market that is medical grade. All other compression gear falls short when compared to 2XU. For example 2XU is the only gear that has 360o compression, as in you can pull and twist the material in any direction and it will return to its original state, whereas most other compression products when pulled apart will remain elongated in a particular direction.
Unfortunately though Nikki’s product spiel went a little overboard and Krisjon didn’t get through everything he’d like to tell us about shoes.
On the last day of the camp after our last workout we did what was by far my favorite training session. Kirsjon led us through some sort of weird yoga/stretching/mobility session (I can’t remember what it was called). The idea behind this unique session was to activate all the little muscles, and nerves that our body is able to use but over the years has forgotten to use them due to inactivity. And by re-activating these muscles and nerves we’d gain mobility.
The exercises and movements we performed were all very simple, but required an immense amount effort. For example we did arm circles one arm at a time, and neck rolls but the kicker is your body had to be as tense as possible. Every single muscle should be firing as you plant your feet firmly into the ground, engage the core, flex the legs, fire the glutes, pull your arms to the floor, creating tension in your shoulders back and neck, and then perform the movement slowly. As we did our single arm circles the trainers would come around and try to move your other arm that is by your side. If you were performing the exercise correctly they should not be able to move that arm. The effort required to perform each movement while tense was immense, and you could physically feel all the little muscles firing that don’t normally fire.
After standing in full tension, we moved to a seated 90-90 position. The 90-90 isn’t a very powerful position in the sense that you aren’t able to generate a large amount force into your legs. However that’s exactly what you needed to do for this next exercise. While seated in the 90-90 position, lean over your front leg as far as possible, then press your front leg as hard has you can into the ground for 20 seconds. Once 20 seconds has elapsed you then try to lift your leg as high as you can off of the ground for another 20 seconds. We repeated each push pull sequence 3 times before moving to another, position and going through more push pull cycles. If performed correctly your groin and hips will be on fire as all the little muscles nerves that you rarely use are being activated. Be warned it is common for cramping to occur during this exercise. I myself did not cramp but I was on verge as I felt the little muscles twitching relentlessly in my hip crease.
Now why was all this so amazing? Afterwards we were all sitting on the floor chatting, and I sat cross-legged! This may not sound like a big deal, but I haven’t sent cross legged in years because I simply did not have the mobility to do it. However after going through the above exercises I miraculously sat cross-legged, without even thinking about it, I just did it! This simply blew my mind! I now understood what Krisjon was saying about us being able to gain mobility by re-teaching our bodies to use all the little muscles that we have neglected over the years. With such immediate, astounding results I will be making a point to implement this into my daily life.
That may have been my favorite training session, but easily my favorite part of the experience was the athletic therapy. Every night after dinner at the hotel a conference room was set up with massage tables and Krisjon and his crew (Mark Taylor, and Jade Edonia) would provide top notch athletic therapy.
The mobility and release that I acquired after these sessions was incredible, never have I felt so nimble. That being said though, these massages aren’t gentle! Having a full grown male’s elbow in your glute, or IT band is not pleasant…but it’s totally worth it.
I had a remarkable time at the 2XU Training Camp. Although the workouts weren’t to the intensity I was expecting, I learned a load of great information. I think the most important thing I took away from this week was the importance of mobility and taking care of your muscles. Whether that is with foam rolling, athletic massages, compression gear, or other recovery techniques, the importance of taking care of your muscles is paramount when it comes to performance. It’s easier said than done, but I will be doing my best to take care of my body, and in the words of Krisjon “train smarter, not harder.”
Thanks to everyone involved for making the 2XU Training Camp an absolutely wonderful experience: 2XU, Sport Check, Krisjon Vargas and the Func. Monk Crew (Mark Taylor, Jade Edonia, and Jamal Lynch), Chris Joyner, and all the other participants (Katerina Walowski, Abi Roman, Ray Montaniel, Adam Beaver, and Syd).