“What's in your head,
In your head?”
Zombies, The Cranberries
We're back with the second part of our conversation with Nick Novak, the Head Weightlifting Coach at WillyB CrossFit Bowery. (Part 1 here) When I started this project with Nick, I didn't quite realize the incredible can of worms I was opening. There's more where this came from. Enjoy.
Question 1 - Mindful Movement
Mark Lusk, MVMT Physical Therapy: What are your influences as a coach?
Nick Novak, WillyB CrossFit Bowery The healing and transformative power of movement is what really inspires me. As a result I am drawn to individuals that understand and promote this idea - Bruce Lee, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ido Portal, the aforementioned Jon North and lately a Steel Mace Flow teacher named Leo Savage have all been influential on my approach to training. I also draw heavily from self-help and spiritual leaders - lately Les Brown and Sadhguru. I believe that changing the body changes the mind, changing the mind can change the body, and changing both can change the heart - meaning how you respond emotionally to your world and the situations you find yourself in.
Question 2 - PT Qualities
Nick: Assuming someone can’t get to you personally, what should an athlete look for in a physical therapist? What are some must do’s and no-no’s to help us understand if we’re working with someone who knows their stuff.
Mark: If an athlete is looking for a PT, they should look for a clinician who understands the needs of the athlete. It’s frustrating for an athlete to hear from their MD or PT “Why would you lift that much overhead?” or “You shouldn’t ever deadlift that heavy”. If you’re looking for a PT, you’ll want to know how much 1:1 time you’re getting with them, and if they have any advanced training in manual techniques. Some clinicians have extra letters at the end of their name, designating different certifications (which I discuss in an earlier blog post).
As for No-go’s - athletes might want to avoid a high-volume clinic where their appointment is shared with other patients at the same time. While a PT doesn’t need to necessarily be a CrossFitter to treat you, they should understand the mobility required for each movement. As for Musts - manual work is almost always needed, but shouldn’t be the sole focus. Those strong manual skills, like anything else in the gym, takes time and training. Look for a clinician with a strong orthopedic and sports background. It’s also a must that you, as the patient, do your research into the clinic and clinician to make sure that you’re a good fit for each other, rather than just looking for a PT that accepts your insurance or is close to your work. This is, after all, an investment in your body.
Question 3 - Keeping Coach Fit
Mark: Nick - what exercises do you do, within and outside of lifting, to keep fit?
Nick: I am a big fan of postural restoration. It’s done wonders to alleviate the chronic pain I gave to myself following bad programming and making the mistakes listed above when I was new to lifting. I do some PRI influenced work before every session. I also do accessory work at the end of every session, mostly focused on hamstrings and rear delts, areas that don’t get as much love but do work very hard in the Olympic Lifts. Outside of the gym I practice Steel Mace Flow. Not only does this provide a ton of lateral movement (which is woefully lacking in both Weightlifting and CrossFit) but it is unstructured and creative. It’s the foil to all the sets and reps and rigid technique. It keeps me sane. I also practice the Alexander Technique in my day to day. Again, this is synergistic with my mindfulness practice.
Question 4 - Before and After
Nick: If you could have everyone spend 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after training, how would you like to see them spend that time?
Mark: This is what I discuss with professional dancers ALL THE TIME: 1) You’ve got to prepare your body for what you’re about to ask it to do. When it comes to performance (auditions, shows, class, competition), it’s important to prime and prepare the body for those movements. Does it require jumping, stability, or large ranges of movement? Prioritize those needs and ease into it.
And 2) You’ve got to then work to undo some of the damage that you’ve just incurred. If there is a lot of repetition (in the case of a Broadway show - it’s the SAME THING eight times a week), then the athlete may need to stretch what has been overused, move in the opposite direction, and de-rotate repetitive rotational movements. This could be some simple stretching, foam rolling, or corrective exercises.
And that's a wrap on Part 2! In the next part, we talk about mistakes rookies make in the gym, what makes for a good Coach, getting our of our heads, getting more of the good stuff.
If you’ve got questions about an injury or just want to lift better, simply call us at (646) 430-5717, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here to answer your questions and help you get back to what you love doing!
Mark M Lusk, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CF-L1, CFMT
Nick Novak, USAW L1, CrossFit L1