Founder Series | Ep #49 | Andy Chan | Triathlon Preparation – Conversations on Recovery



the content discussed in this episode is for educational or informative purposes only and should not be replaced by individualized professional conductations or professional

medical advice welcome to the founders series of doctor of the podcast this year i’m signing up for a triathlon happening in summer and to prepare myself in this founders series i’m going to be having one-on-one conversations with experts in the field and hopefully it will keep myself accountable and nurture my community on a day to day so without further ado hope you enjoyed this episode so hi everyone so today is our founders series and today we have andy chan andy chen is a certified strength and conditioning specialist educator and drawing on his master’s degrees in exercise science and influence by his 10-year stay in the united states he has a unique outlook on health and athletic performance he recently released his book dynamic balance where they look at the interconnectedness of diet emotions and training through the lens of traditional chinese medicine so so glad to have you on the show andy welcome to doctor the podcast thanks for having me i’m so excited so andy i am on a journey of getting ready for a triathlon and the idea of the founders series to speak to different coaches sports scientists athletes to get the guidance that advice so that you know i’m not too too lost in this uh journey and so what i’d like to speak about today is the balance between exercise and rest i’d like to pick your brains on you know what physiologically speaking happens when you’re actually exercising and training but how rest comes into to the actual overall holistic process of getting ready for triathlon when we look at the topic of recovery it has certainly been increasingly popular over the past few years because we realized that we just cannot go hard forever and even though society tells us to keep training hard keep the grind keep working hard keep training hard i think we do realize that at some point our bodies break down and you know in recent years i actually have been going back to ancient wisdom in explaining the need for recovery this is usually where i would explain what the yin yang philosophy signifies and to be honest with you sometimes if i am speaking to a more western audience there is a preconception to what the yin philosophy is and they would probably say oh why are you bringing up the yin yang philosophy to talk about recovery and this is where i tell them well if you think about the indian philosophy if we apply to movement we’ll know that if we’re going hard as genuine we’re going aggressive you know running as fast as we can today then we’ll know that’s yank because that signifies something that’s energetic and fast and bright yet you know if you think about the yin and sign it is complementary and yet it is contradictory right so if you look at the symbol it has equal amounts of white and equal amounts of black and if we think about our daily lives you know our our current lifestyle i would say a lot of us are we put an emphasis on the aggressive side and on the energetic side and we’re just not putting enough emphasis on the recovery and so through that simple philosophy we will know that you know we actually humans figured this out thousands of years ago that we need to have good balance when it comes to longevity when it comes to human performance and on the on the actual recovery part what we know in in modern exercise science we always say that your progress always hinges upon your body’s ability to tolerate to recover from and to adapt to a stress right so let’s say today guinea you train for triathlon you’re doing all these training you’re putting all the stress on the body if your body cannot tolerate and cannot recover from and can adapt to this stress then hey you’re not going to become a better athlete so it is because of these two perspectives that we say recovery is critical to athletic performance and overall health i am no athlete here but no no no everyone is an athlete everyone is an athlete in their head but physically speaking i am not there but you know when you want to get to a certain target and you have goals some people might think that rest might kind of prevent them from getting theirs like oh i’m wasting my time resting instead of you know being out there training and getting myself you know building up muscles or building up endurance because you did touch upon yin and yang so it’s a balance but would you say that the equal amount of stress that you put on yourself as you train needs to be counteracted at the same amount of level for resting yeah that’s a great question right so the question essentially if we look at it from another perspective is how do we define the quality of our recovery or how do we define what to do in our recovery because that’s right let’s say let’s say if i train for triathlon three hours a day one hour running when i was on a bike one hour swimming do i just like do nothing for three hours and so and and and i think this is where people need to be educated because there are a lot of ways to actively recover and certainly we know now in in the exercise science world people are applying a lot of not only pharmaceuticals but actually natural techniques that were used again if we tie back to chinese medicine you know if you look at the fitness industry now people are applying coming they’re playing acupuncture and they’re applying maybe some gua sha or some scraping if you look at exercise science they will look at our soft tissues or our fascia or basically the connective tissues that surrounds the muscle what we know is that through strenuous training let’s say if our muscles are overworked then the analogy that we will give or the picture that we usually give is let’s imagine you’re holding a sponge in your hand and if you kind of draw if we draw parallels there if you think of that as your soft tissue ideally we want the sponge to be pliable and we want it to be soft and and that way we can manipulate it because if you think about athletic performance you know the best athletes are the ones who are agile and they can move in all different directions and they’re powerful and elegant in their movement those people who think they’re not athletes number one they’re not coordinated and number two the reason why they’re not coordinated is because when they try to move or when they try to dance when they try to run the movements are just a bit rigid and and we know that if you think about the sponge a a sponge that is pliable can contribute to smooth movement yet on the other hand a sponge that is hard brittle and just a bit rough it it it has trouble producing those elegant and smooth movements so therefore we know that if we are training for a long time and we if we have overused muscle then we have to apply modalities that returns to that pliable state and one if we look at the physical modalities we can obviously apply those three that i talked about so the acupuncture should wash out the scraping but this is where the mental side comes in because you know actually our the state of our soft tissue is directly related to our emotions because my emotional state elicits or evokes responses from my body so the current state of my mind actually determines or has a big impact on how my soft tissues react essentially these practices in traditional chinese medicine let’s pick one a practice acupuncture what does it effectively do to understand acupuncture i they will say that is through injecting needles that you stimulate different acupuncture or acupressure points and through that you can stimulate a reaction from the body and and therefore improving circulation which in the chinese medicine language it is called blood energy so that’s that’s that’s their way of of explaining uh the smoothness of energy we are improving circulation by injecting needles into certain acupuncture points into along the lines of meridians and we know now from the western perspective that by stimulating the skin we are inducing changes that happens that originates from the brain doing a session in acupuncture what’s happening is like there’s like a uh also a redirection of your energy because as you are you know stressing your body in a certain way there are maybe certain muscles that are solicited more than the others and so rearrangement of energy it’s that balancing off of that the yin and the young that you were you was you were talking about in the beginning yeah and uh well i just want to piggyback on that and and and chinese medicine is all has always been predicated on the fact are based on the premise that the body is an interconnected unit it’s an ecosystem look western medicine has changed lives for sure we all know that yet in anatomy in traditional anatomy sessions we have learned in school that muscles work in isolation so my biceps it flexes my elbows my my shoulder it my deltoids it reflects my shoulders and we know we now know that the body is so much more than just these isolated body parts and you know people have been saying this for thousands of years so i agree with you this redirecting energy is profound and what would be your your advice to anyone that’s out there in terms of any ethnic minority and who is trying to get out there be more fit exercise living this kind of holistic lifestyle where we understand that there’s as you as you uh beautifully put it in your in your book which is interconnect and interconnectedness of diet emotions and training where it’s basically what you uh what you eat how you feel and how you move um for someone who’s trying trying to put themselves out there and trying to be in this holistic kind of way of approaching life what would be your advice to them first off is to embrace cultural food in the health and science or in the health and fitness worlds there seems to be a perfect diet which is steam chicken steamed chicken steamed chicken steven broccoli steamed fish and brown rice no dressing yadda yadda get your uh get your vitamins in and oh my god yeah there’s this stereotypical diet we say stereotypical yet it is there’s some truth to it other historic diets we all eat different foods depending on where we are and and so therefore the first advice i’ll give is eat what is culturally acceptable where you are at and chances are if mother nature has give that to your culture it is good for your body and just don’t assume that someone in hong kong should eat the same diet as someone in scandinavia right so i was on scandinavia from a honeymoon two years ago in december and i was there to see the northern lights and just just just to give you some context in hong kong we eat a lot of vegetables and we love fresh food especially fresh seafood and and when i went to scandinavia it was it was minus 20 something degrees there and there were no vegetables and we were eating all these meat that i’ve never had before and that was fine you know you’ve got to embrace it may or be insensitive of me if i go there and say why don’t we have more vegetables because we need to retain heat and we need to retain energy we need to warm the body up so uh usually the first advice i’ll give is for diet just just stick to what’s culturally acceptable and eat what’s around you in a very same way when we are as a minority don’t feel like you have to conform to whatever is happening around you just embrace who you are and and know that ultimately if you make the best healthiest decision for your body other people will respect you and and what i find is certainly now i bear the fruits of my transparency and my vulnerability and and other people respect me for it but i’ll say at first it was quite hard being that person yeah so if you’re listening just take heart in being yourself essentially is what i’m saying yeah live authentically isn’t say be yourself be vulnerable uh what about movement and training what what would be your your message to them well if we tie it back to the beginning of the podcast where we used an analogy of a sponge we talked about how the sponge should be should be pliable it should be soft so it can be manipulated in different ways and if we look at the connection between our soft tissue which is the sponge and our mental state we have to first understand two responses the fight-or-flight response and the rest and digest response so on the final flight as the name suggests thousands of years ago we might be chilling uh under under a tree and all of a sudden there might be a predator so there might be a lion or bear right in front of us so at that moment you have two choices you either fight it or you run from it and and as a result in this state your mind perhaps the body it evokes a response an inflammatory response in fact that tighten up the body so that you can produce force immediately because we know that if your muscles or if you soft tissues if the sponge is very loose it’s quite hard to generate a lot of force on the other hand if it is tight and if it is ready to go then you’ll be ready to fight or flight so we know that in the fight or flight in that inflammatory response our body becomes rigid or it becomes tight um and then in the in the rest of digestate it is the opposite because we know that the mind is trying to recover so as a result our heart rate goes down and our soft tissues become more pliable so this is where it connects because my mental state directly affects the status of my soft tissue and this actually works in reverse like a lot of people just focus on the this this one weight direction but this connection is actually bilateral meaning let’s save today if i’m just sitting for for a long time the office position so a lot of weekend out weekend warriors they work at uh in front of a desk for eight hours a day and then they go train at night but what happens during those eight hours is that you trick your mind into fight or flight by being rigid because let’s say if i am sitting with a hunchback posture for even just for an hour effectively i am trying to make myself rigid so by becoming rigid my mind also thinks that i am in fight-or-flight yeah that’s a good yeah this is a good point right and then so over the long run i’m just in fight or flight and then we go to the gym we do triathlete triathlon training which is also you know fight or flight and i think this is where the spiral happens because we then never give our body the chance to recover yeah what i really take out of this is the concept of agility and having being able to balance rest and active recovery it actually helps you to to be more agile when you you need to train and and when you’re not supposed to train how to actually actively recover so that you can be more agile on performance level and has its importance and we shouldn’t be neglecting it oh for sure and you know to take it one step further so the next question we should ask is so how should i train right so now we’ve talked about the connection between emotions and training well here is where i draw from ancient wisdom because as we all know you know in chinese medicine in yoga in in all these ancient practices people have been practicing qigong they’ve been doing dances and they’ve been doing different type of aerobics for thousands of years and you know we’ve been searching for elegant movements for a long time even when people go on the run you know the best athletes who are running effortlessly right those who are running with effort if they’re just muscling it out they can never go far because we know that they’re inefficient we already know they’re inefficient by looking at how they’re running right and therefore at the gym a lot of us have been stuck in isolated muscle training so again we tie back to the beginning of the podcast we talked about in conventional or traditional anatomy people look at isolated muscle function yeah so let’s say today if i want to become a better runner some people they might work on their core and isolation so they will do some setups because they think oh if i have a stronger core it’s going to reduce my injury risk but if you look at the core in a functional sense if you’re a runner the core is to help me transfer energy so it’s the link between my lower body and upper body and if you think about ground reaction force which means when i take a step on the ground i’m interacting with the ground and the core is to stabilize my body against outside forces so a better way to train it is number one i need to work on better coordination as you alluded to it that’s the key of my training philosophy because after all the best athletes are the ones who can coordinate number two we have to think about the core in that sense which is to help us protect the spine not to produce power because you don’t do a setup in the triathlon that you’re going to participate in so when it comes to training we have to understand isolated muscle training might not be the best way forward but rather we’re talking about total body movements so like a lunge plus a press or maybe squat plus press basically more complex movements that we do right i mean it’s a great takeaway a great point you’re making and this morning i went swimming and i did look at some of the swimmers it’s like how can i improve and you can do you do see swimmers that are actually struggling in the sense that it looks like it’s an effort to go through you know do their lap then you have very elegant and i like the word that you’re saying like elegant swimmers where you feel that they’re actually dancing and it’s effortless they doing their lap so gracefully and you could tell that there’s something different in in the way they’re using that body to while they effectively doing the same thing so i’ll be thinking how do i like make this more graceful as i train yeah yeah just remember to smile as shoes and and this just reinforces the point that we have been intuitively searching for elegant movement because the chances are once you see someone who’s kind of going in their flow you’re going to be like wow athlete but for some reason we just never think that we have the capability to move like her right we just kind of think oh so this is what happened i tell you like my typical client they’ll come in oh i’m a swimmer uh but i’m slow so so i i which muscles do i have to work at and i tell them well perhaps it’s not a muscular thing maybe it’s a coordination thing because you’re right you’re trying too hard and perhaps the mobility thing because from that bad posture you’re trying to force yourself into opening up your shoulders yet you find yourself being a bit stuck and right and in that instance perhaps training for muscular endurance is not or muscular strength is not appropriate because what you lack is range of motion so this ties back to recovery because again if you’re rigid sometimes it’s it’s it’s best to look at ways to recover and calm the nervous system down love it a full cycle yeah and what i’d like to kind of shift towards a into our conversation is to get to know more about your experience as an ethnic minority in sport and with your experience in the us and now you’re currently based in in hong kong but what was your experience in the sport world as an ethnic minority so a little bit of my personal background i spent 10 years in the united states for school and i was a big football player at vegas and i was very into football soccer and us as they call it and in 12th grade i was chosen as the captain of my high school soccer team which was something i was immensely proud of and the day that i was elected captain i was voted captain by my teammates the coach he came to me and he said you know andy you should be very proud of yourself because there are not many asians who could be a captain in a major sports team in connecticut which was the state that i was in and at the time i was like oh yeah it’s a pretty big achievement but over time i if i think about it that was quite a disrespectful statement because i i don’t know maybe he did mean maybe he was well intended but now that i think back it kind of blocks me in a little bit boxed you in labeled you the racist comment or the bias that comes with it it’s pretty heavy and for a kid at that point to deal with this you see how like automatically you try to brush it off because that’s just you know coping mechanism i guess yeah well i i think the coping mechanism is just to pretend like there’s nothing happening right because certainly in in my high school there weren’t that many asian kids and and the school was predominantly caucasian and i would sometimes hang out with some african americans i hang out with there were two three very good friends of mine and we’ll talk about racism issues that happens within the school itself and obviously on the fields it was all fair game because you always just let that why don’t you go home chant with some expletives uh in the middle of the game whenever i do something horrible and and it was frustrating but yet i was numb to it uh to be honest because if someone tells that to you every single game then you just kind of treat it as oh it’s just another thing they’re gonna say but what i think it had an impact on me though is the fact that i i now have developed a personality where i i feel like i have to prove myself to the world all the time and we’re going to talk about the ying and philosophy here because it’s it’s a good and bad right uh there are always two sides to to a story me wanting to prove myself it’s good because i’m driven right on the outside whoa and he’s always driven he’s published a book he’s delivering all these conferences he’s out there impacting others but we know on the on the on the negative side we know this stems from an insecurity that i have inside me which originated from me being the underdog all the time yeah which which is said to hear that that for example that coach instead of celebrating your skills athlete that you were he pointed out what you looked like was what was um emphasized that’s where the distance is drawn it’s because like you’re different from us and it did impact you because i think you were saying numbing but you know as i think minorities you had these moments quite a bit especially when you live in the west and you had these micro aggressions actually and and you just tried to make it seem like it it’s not affecting you but like again in the in a more kind of holistic energetical uh philosophy this does affect you and as you said it affects you in a way where the way you you conduct yourself in your life like there’s almost this anger within me it’s like oh i’ve got to prove to all these americans that i’m worthy but you know that’s so unnecessary so i think for me now it is knowing this uh kind of tendency of mine and and now for me it is a case of kind of toning it down because at the end of the day i don’t have to prove to no one about my self-worth and and what i can do so i i think that’s what i’m i’m currently working on and you know what i’m really i’m really glad that you’re opening up with regards to that particular sideway we don’t hear a lot of asians that are sharing that the experience of the challenges with regards to to that because we usually stay in our own and maybe slightly talk about it within the community but it’s never put out that so thanks for for being vulnerable and especially as as a man an asian man it’s something that you don’t see often so so thanks for kind of speaking up and being an example for for your community you know i i sometimes i need to be a bit cautious when i talk about my high school coach so that people don’t don’t look him up but i hope he reads it because then then he’ll understand that he wasn’t very good teacher back then he might he might have improved now because we we all can change over time so yeah that’s hope for the best that’s that’s a that’s a positive outlook um and so as we’re closing our conversation we always like to ask our guests uh rapid fire questions so you ready i am ready come at me okay so what is the first sign that you notice when you’re out of balance first sign for me my face is oily you are the first person who tells me this okay so you see your face getting oily what is what is the coping mechanism with that yeah the coping mechanism usually i i look why they’re i’m sleeping well or whether i’m eating too much meat because i i like eating meat like a lot of fitness people do because i you know i have a good mixture of ease versus west so i still think protein is important for my my studies and as a result sometimes i i’ll still have too much protein and we know that when we have so much nutrition someone’s if the body cannot handle it it’s gonna be a bit damp in chinese medicine terms which means that there’s just too much that the body cannot handle and it’ll be reflected in an early phase and maybe acne breakout and stuff like that so that’s usually the two that i look at because it also might be false as it as if if i’m not getting enough sleep it might also give me a false response so that’s why i have to look at both my my sleeping quality and time as well as what i’m eating i love it um so having kind of your face being that signal well i look at my face all the time so sorry yeah no narcissistic we cannot escape the opportunity every single time you go to the bathroom you look at your phone and and so to anyone who says that they’re not looking at their face damage throughout the day i i just don’t think so at the screen next question sorry um what is one book that impacted your approach to well-being and wellness the book is actually called the work and believe it or not it is a business book and the premise of the book uh deep work by cal newport is that it is through concentrated work that fulfills us and and we need to do enough deep work every single day to have a meaningful life essentially because a lot of us have shallow lives these state which just involves us looking on social media not really doing anything and the specific tip that actually changed my uh perspective on wellness is tip number two embrace boredom people understand how profound this is because you know if we sit there just doing nothing we feel a bit restless right now i need to find something to do and so if you are able to embrace the fact that you’re bored you’re actually embracing recovery because you know we talk about how people think that we just sleep for recovery sleep is a great recovery modalities it’s the best recovery tool yet people are not sleeping they’re laying on top of couch watching netflix watching discovery plus and yeah yeah exactly they’re all watching youtube so you know if we just can embrace boredom then i believe it will be very good for our mental wellness and certainly that’s what changed my mental mental wellness and and therefore have better results after that so deep work by cal newport uh it’s such a nice way to rephrase sit in stillness because sitting in stillness is something that you can hear when you know uh in kind of the holistic vocabulary jargon but embrace boredom is a direct translation and is much more relatable so so thank you for that thank you and it is much more positive i i actually didn’t make that connection until you said it but yes it is the same thing it is saying just be still but it’s a very positive way of going about being still exactly well thank you andy for spending the time with me on on this show and sharing your wisdom around how to integrate kind of ancient wisdom into your daily training and actually just your lifestyle in general so it’s really valuable having you on the show thanks for having me getting it was great chat if you enjoyed this episode go ahead and select that follow or subscribe button for now stay safe and we’ll see you next week

Founder Series | Ep #49 | Andy Chan | Triathlon Preparation – Conversations on Recovery

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