In 1989, I had a unique opportunity to visit the (then) Soviet Union. Home of the Gold, and mysterious for other coaches and athletes elsewhere around the globe, especially here in the U.S.
How could somebody get so strong? How could somebody be so young out-perform our most decorated? Many of them have poor food sources, lacking in vital nutrition, so how are they recovering from their training? They take steroids, but so does everybody else? Is it in their genes? Maybe they have some animal cross-link that was encoded into their DNA tens of thousands of years ago? Or it’s one of those crazy Dr. Jeykl concoctions?
Whatever it was, it was working, for all medals (Gold, Silver, Bronze) in National, European, World and Olympic Games. The Soviet Union repeatedly out medaled the rest of the world.
I asked to visit the country to observe the training sessions, exhibitions and competitions of various sports. Both male and female athletes of different sports, all ages and stages of development participated.
I stayed at Hotel Sport in Moscow, spectator housing for the 1980 Olympics; USA boycotted. The groups I was with also attended a powerlifting competition in Abakan, Siberia; interesting place. I’m not that skillful of a writer to fully articulate; but you’re free to use your imagination of having to eat in restaurants that have ‘no’ refrigeration, for 3 days while trying to recover from powerlifting.
For Soviet audiences, strength performers are inspirations, and hero’s. Something about a strong man and a strong woman. Something about a world dominator. Something about a champion. So super-human. There’s human and there’s super-human.
I met with several professors of sports sciences and talked to as many Soviets as I could, athlete, coach, spectator, you name it. For one, and a relief to my anticipation, they we’re not pissed off at any of us from the U.S.A for the boycott. That could of been because the got major pay-back for LA 1984. So now that I knew they were going to kick the crap out of me, I found they were the nicest people. They were intrigued about America. They wanted everything I was wearing; my jeans, my wrist-watch, my shoes, my USA T-shirt, you name it. If their were pissed at Americans for the boycott it’s likely I would of been stripped of everything. But the gift-giving began. What I didn’t tell you is that I represented several companies for this trip, one of them being WEIDER. I hauled over 400 T-shirts and about 400 Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines with the Weider logos and icons; Cory, Lou, Arnold, Columbo, Zane, . . . . . , it was amazing.
The powerlifting contest took place in a soccer stadium in Abakan, the home of the warm food. When we arrived in Abakan the city was sparsely populated. I seen more cows and dogs and cats than I did people. The competition was scheduled in 2 days; and by the scene around town, I thought this was going to be a small event, tiny.
MAJOR SURPRISE: When we arrived at the stadium it was filled with over 10,000 people. I was so happy, this really was worth it. I met people from parts of the world, and obviously different. Some said they lived 6 months with sunshine, 6 months in darkness. Globally, these people are ‘way’ up there, and in those places genes are definitely different.
So in addition to participating as a coach and journalist; several articles were publish in M&F later, I had those (humungous/flimsy) boxes off to the side; but hoards of Soviets were already eye-balling and encircling themselves. Some of the boxes had tears in them, and it’s difficult to conceal a photograph of Cory Everson hanging out of a busted seam in a large box.
So, forced into a premature gift-giving ceremony, in the middle of the 10,000 people, many of which had to sleep with sunlight in their faces for 6 straight months, I tore open one box, an total mayhem. I was screaming, ‘Hold ON!’, ‘Wait’, ‘You’re messing up what I rehearsed’. The rehearsed reference was that I asked a cameraman to record the event, and explained what and when I wanted to start the ceremony, but all the 400 T-Shirts and 400 (very thickly paged) magazines flew out of those boxes like the got hit back a cyclone.
In any event, I really enjoyed the experience and now it was time for all the interviews:
World Champions, Olympic Gold Medalists; Past and current, they all were/all Champions, and they all, for a period within their lifetimes, proved world dominance. Even the professors, who were aged, I was told they were champions at various levels. And being a champion at anything in the Soviet Union is extremely admirable.
WHAT TO ASK?
I had a lot of time, but there were so many to interview. And each person offered different areas; or agrees, of experience, expertise, focus.
Some of what I learned, which wasn’t confined to only the Soviets, was the objective or focus dedicated purely on performance, as the World and Olympic Games ‘was/is’ one of their premier exhibitions for world dominance and superiority, and to support and advance national pride: Those who succeeded were regarded as national heroes, and generously treated so by their government. This was a passionate incentive to strive for ands secure success. And one motivate I observed, which is often taken for granted but there’s plenty others, when you live in places that offer the conditions I mentioned above; and there’s a lot more I didn’t, and your government rewards you with opportunities, free living, elite status everywhere you go, that also allows them to provide for their families, Gold medals are the direction that must followed.
One of the most fascinating performance-based experiments I learned from Soviet professors. It was explained as intentional ‘protein starvation’. Many of us are aware of ‘carbohydrate starvation/depletion’, starting a week (or so) before a big race, which is then countered with ‘Carbo-loading’ shortly before the event. The first portion of this strategy; ‘carbohydrate starvation/depletion’, is intended to starve/deplete the muscles and liver of glycogen, essential fuel sources for performance. Then, as the athlete enters into the ‘carbo-loading’ phase the tissues and liver are far more sensitive than normal and respond in a ‘super-compensative’ state and hyper-absorb the sugars supplied in the carb sources. This starvation reaction forces more energy into the tissues and liver, and as a result, the athlete is feeling healthy again, and super-charged for their event. It’s like tossing a dry sponge in water; the dried out tissues of the sponge super absorb the water beyond what an already wet sponge would absorb, ‘super or hyper compensation’.
What’s so amazing is the Soviets discovered the same technique applies to self-induced ‘protein starvation’. And it’s easy to understand that during this ‘depletion phase’ of essential amino acids the body cannot perform at an even normal capacity, while recovery times are extended way beyond ordinary time lines. However, as soon as protein is re-introduced into the athletes’ eating their metabolisms spring into another ‘super compensation mode’ and muscle tissues quickly voluminate, becoming stronger, more functional and possessing endless reservoirs of power. Plus, on the flipside, recovery times accelerate between exertion/exercise periods. This is one form of Metabolic Momentum™.