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Ugh - Facepalm! That was stupid…. WTH was I thinking?!

Quick Hit Summary

Nothing puts one in their place quite like having one of those, "Oh Sh*t!… Please tell me I didn’t really do that… WTH was I thinking?!" type of moments, or as they're depicted in the land of facebook and social media, "Ugh – Facepalm." I'd like to say that I'm immune to these occurrences. Unfortunately I'm not. This article shares some of the “Ugh – Facepalm” moments that I’ve had in training, coaching, writing and researching. Hopefully in sharing them I can either (A) Prevent you from making the same error or (B) Let you know you aren’t the first to do the error… if I’m too late and can’t prevent you! These include, trying to impress the preferred sex in the gym, Running 2-3 Miles After Resistance Training to Build “4th Quarter Endurance”, Salt & Water OVERLOADING to Combat Sweat Loss, Too Many & Rambling Coaching Cues, Writing Dissertation-“esque” Articles, working in sleep deprived states & Misreading Nutrition Label on the Baking Soda Box (Sodium Bicarbonate).

Moments of Infamy

Figure 1. “Please tell me I really just didn’t do that ….”. Image source.1

I’ve long said that I’m no guru or infallible expert. That said, I do consider myself intelligent and at times definitely ride the "Damn… Nice Work Dude!" wave of confidence. Luckily or unluckily, depending on how you look at it, my ego is kept in check as these moments of self admiration are usually curtailed by a moment of overwhelming embarrassment … or as it’s depicted in the land of facebook and social media – "Ugh Facepalm." Nothing puts one in their place quite like having one of those, "Oh Sh*t!… Please tell me I didn’t really do that… WTH was I thinking?!" type of moments.

Now, at times these “Ugh – Facepalm” occurrences are the result of a single incident “Crap… did I really just say/do that a few moments ago_”; at other times they are the build-up of actions/events that took place over an extended period of time until finally it hits you… “I can’t believe I’ve been doing that this whole time.” Now, when these moments occur, the best thing one can do is to learn and move on. Fortunately I can say that I have learned … at least from those exact situations. Apparently learning from one “Ugh – Facepalm” experience does not prevent them from reappearing in other areas of human actions and behaviors. (Dang principle of specificity at work here I guess!).

Below I share with you some “Ugh – Facepalm” moments that I’ve had in training, coaching, writing and researching. Hopefully in sharing them I can either (A) Prevent you from making the same error or (B) Let you know you aren’t the first to do the error… if I’m too late and can’t prevent you!

We start with brilliant moments of mine between the ages of 15-19 when track and field as well as American football were my passions [as a competing athlete]. I would like to say my moments of “That was stupid…” ended their; However, over the years, as if a punishment from the gods, this scarlet phrase has repeatedly been re-stamped on my forehead, just as the ink from the previous one had started to fade, inciting a new moment of “WTH was I thinking?” Enjoy!

Ugh – Facepalm … Trying to Impress Ladies in the Gym

Figure 2. An unhealthy mix of variables.

I was a freshman in high school. “They” were the ladies of varsity volleyball team and we were in the weight room at the same time. At this stage of the lifting game I was very much a newbie with 10-12 months of lifting experience. On a relative scale, I was pretty strong for my age (key word “relatively”. I went to a very small school) and figured there would be no better time to put it on full display then at this very exact moment. My squat 1RM was around 285 – 290 lbs (~130 kg). However, I thought that nothing would impress the ladies more than seeing a freshman guy squat 315 lbs (143 kg); The bar and 6 plates – Oh Yeah! So let’s take a step back and objectively look at the variables at play – A freshman (ie – me) whose hormone levels had definitely kicked in, athletically built members of the preferred sex and a “wise” decision being made to make a jump of 25-30 lbs greater than anything I had ever had on my back before. Another variable at play – I knew they were only going to be in there for a short period of time so between set rest was sacrificed a bit. As you can see a scenario doomed from the start.

So what happened? I finally got ready to rock out 315 lbs. I got in position under the bar, took a bunch of deep breaths to “psych” myself up (OK…. Maybe I did the latter just to draw the attention of the VB team members more than “psyching” myself up) and lifted it off the hooks [on the rack]. I took a couple steps back while looking at the mirrors in front of me to ensure they were still watching, dropped into the squat and BAM! A sharp pain in my left harmstring and my first major muscle strain.

Lesson Learned… Stick to the program. Focus on what you’re doing and tune everything else out… even if it's the varsity volleyball team!

Ugh – Facepalm…Running 2-3 Miles After Resistance Training to Build “4th Quarter Endurance”

In order to be a successful football athlete, I knew I needed to have great endurance such that I could be stronger/quicker/faster than the opposition during the 4th quarter (The final period of regulation for those not familiar with American Football).

With this in mind, I’d put in a hard training session in the weight room, take maybe a 10-20 minute break and then go for a 2-3 mile run in the middle of the afternoon when it was hottest. At the time I thought to myself, "By running for a couple of miles after a hard training session, under these environmental conditions, I will be less fatigued in the 4th quarter vs. my opponents". [Plus, what better time of the day for a guy of Irish descent to work on a tan right?!] Of course in doing this, I completely ignored the “training specificity” principle and, amongst other things, would have been wiser in incorporating more sprints into my training to improve my 4th quarter endurance! In my defense though, I really didn’t know any better knowledge at the time nor have guidance in this regard and it did build mental toughness.

Lessons Learned… 1) Training specificity…. It’s important Yo! 2) You’re of Irish descent and go straight from a Casper “The Friendly Ghost” white skin tone to tomato red before going straight back to a Casper like complexion. You don’t tan dude – give it up.

Ugh – Facepalm … Salt & Water OVERLOADING to Combat Sweat Loss

Here is another moment of buffoonery on my part. As a 10th grader, I was moved up to the varsity football team. Our first home football game took place at the end of August; the temperature and humidity were ridiculously high. Being that I naturally sweat like a horse, even when the temperatures are semi-cool, I was afraid of losing electrolytes, becoming dehydrated and badly cramping up during the game. I was pretty jacked about the event and didn’t want anything to get in the way of performing well. Apparently though “jacked” does not equate to intelligent…

Being the genius I was, despite never having done it before, I decided it would be wise to mix ~ 3 tablespoons of salt into a large container of water and drank it ~60- 90 minutes before the game. As you could imagine, my body went into overdrive trying to rid me of all of the excess fluid. During warm-ups, I had to leave the field twice to urinate in the cornfield behind the stadium (Rural Midwest USA & their corn lined sporting fields … Gotta love ‘em). I probably ended up more dehydrated going into the game than what I ever would have been if I just would have done my normal pre-game routine… What the heck was I thinking?!

Lesson learned… Never experiment with something for the first time on the day of an event.

Ugh – Facepalm … Too Many & Rambling Coaching Cues

One of the biggest mistakes I made when first starting to work as a physical preparation coach was cueing too much, especially when the athlete was first learning an exercise. Between sets, I’d shoot off a bunch of things I thought they were doing wrong instead of just having them focus on 1-2 key things. Once I got done I’d get a semi blank stare as they said “ok” and later be shocked to see that hardly any of the changes were implemented.

On a related cueing note, they were often long winded full sentences. As an intern, I remember my mentor Luke Richesson pulling me aside and saying something along the lines of “You know what you’re talking about but with all the words you’re confusing the sh*t out of the athletes.” That night, I went home wrote down all the exercises we did and proceeded to make 1-2 cue word(s) for the major areas of error with the lifts. Between cutting out the number of cues I gave, as well as making them short and sweet, I had much better results.

Lesson Learned… When it comes to cueing, less truly is more.

Ugh – Facepalm … Writing Dissertation-“esque” Article Postings

Figure 3. I knew it was bad when not even 2 coffees could keep readers awake while reading my early articles. Image Source.2

One of my strengths is that I’m relatively detailed orientated. I want to know everything I can about a given thing if it holds any interest to me. This worked great for me at university while writing research papers for various classes. However, it took me a while to transition out of this mode once I started writing articles meant for the general training enthusiast via the internet.

The first 10-15 articles I wrote back in 2009 were basically research papers that you’d turn into a professor teaching an upper level nutrition or exercise physiology course. If you haven’t seen many of these papers, I can sum them up for you in one word – BORING! Unless you were part of the 0.0001% of the population with a level of “nerdness” best suited by reading the tomes of these disciplines, they were instant snoozers. Tack onto that the fact that my overall writings skills were much less refined and you can only imagine how brutal these were to read.

One day while talking with my friend Brian, it hit me…How could I expect anyone to read these articles and actually understand what I’m talking about unless they had a semi extensive background in this area? Additionally I realized that if the reader had an extensive background in the area, they’re probably not going to get much out of my articles. It wasn’t like I was writing on revolutionary topics at the time. And the graphs I was using… they were copy and pasted out of the journals themselves and, more often than not, were quite confusing. (Note: I was misinformed on how these images could be used; I did not knowingly try to infringe on protected images. Now I make all my own graphs/figures to avoid this issue). Effectively, I made simple concepts complicated.

Upon this realization, which happened to coincide with starting up the CP website in 2010, I went back through all of my articles and rewrote them in a way that everyone could take something away from them regardless of their science background. That is why I now have a “Quick Hit Summary” to lead off each post which basically gives the “this is all you really need to know” type facts, use my own figures, greatly cut back on the use of technical jargon, and added better headings and subheadings to help one quickly scan to any section that is relevant. Additionally I added a glossary which was hyperlinked to any more technical words that were necessary for discussing a given topic.

From the feedback I’ve received, the measures I’ve taken seem to have been well received… Except for a few upset insomniacs who found that my early writings made for great sleep aids!

Lesson Learned… Know your audience and PLEASE, for the love of all that is good and right in the world, don’t write highly technical snoozers.

Ugh – Facepalm … Emailing a Leading Researcher, Dr. Stuart Phillips, on Short Rest & Similar Sleep Deprived Follies

Remember in the intro when I mentioned how one’s ego can be kept in check quite well by moments of overwhelming embarrassment? The incident that I’m about to describe truly represents one such occurrence for me…

It was February 2010. I was feeling pretty dang good about myself as CasePerformance had just launched and a few other things had bounced my way. At this time I was also researching the effects of various protein powders on muscle growth when consumed post workout as well as the influence of exercise induced hormones on protein synthesis, etc. I had plowed through a lot of papers over the course of the day and stayed up late into the night.

Towards the end of my day of researching the topic, I came across the then recently published study, Elevations in ostensibly anabolic hormones with resistance exercise enhance neither training-induced muscle hypertrophy nor strength of the elbow flexors which came out of Dr. Stu Phillips’ lab at McMaster University. Now, for those of you who don’t follow research super close, Dr. Phillips is a huge name in the field and is well known for his research on protein synthesis and influence of hormonal levels on muscle growth. Many of his studies involve having the same individual exercise one limb (ie – leg or arm) under given condition while exercising the other leg or arm under a different condition. This particular study was no different and examined the effects of training one arm under “low” exercise induced hormone levels and the other arm under “high” exercise induced hormone levels over the course of 15 weeks. The key things they were looking at were how these variables affected both muscle growth (via cross sectional area) as well as strength levels.

Being short on sleep, a bit unaware as to the degree that it was affecting my ability to think clearly as well as having spent the better part of the day researching, I started to blend various studies into my head. After reading this study, as well as a few final ones for the night, I thought, “That study from Dr. Phillips lab was cool, but I didn’t really see much on dietary records in it. If one group of individuals had eaten differently than the other group, this would have clearly affected the results.” I then proceeded to email him to see if they kept any food records, etc to monitor this since I thought it could have influenced results. After writing this email I went to bed. The next day I opened up my email inbox and saw that he replied to my email. Wow! Awesome I thought. I then opened it up and proceeded to read….

"…your question is meaningless from the standpoint of how it might affect the outcomes. All subjects completed all conditions within themselves, so if nutrition affected one limb it also affected the other, right? I mean, what nutritional variable do you think affected one limb and not the other?…"

As I read this, I literally wanted to crawl up into a ball and die. It hit me like an Iron Mike Tyson knockout blow. I realized that I had blended his group’s study with that of another study I had also read which used two different groups (overweight individuals who were randomly assigned to different exercise treatment groups; one hormone stimulating, the other non hormone stimulating). I was so embarrassed that I had emailed one of the top researchers in the field and completely botched the study. It is definitely one of the worst “Ugh –Facepalm” moments I’ve ever experienced to date as it relates to this type of stuff. Now I just am including a snippet of his response. He was quite nice about things overall despite my error.

Now I have other “Ugh – Facepalm” occurrences in the sleep deprived state of mind including losing a lot of client’s work by hitting “save” vs. “save as” as well as talking with an individual about fish oil and completely forgetting that EPA & DHA were already pre-formed in it vs. having to be synthesized out of alpha linolenic acid (which is bonehead biochemistry 101 for those who follow the stuff).

Lesson Learned… Although not drunk, you have the thought processing ability of one when operating on short sleep. Refrain from emailing researchers, coaches, friends about nutrition/exercise or working on client write-ups while in this state of mind.

Ugh – Facepalm … Misreading Nutrition Label on the Baking Soda Box (Sodium Bicarbonate)

My first adventure with sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. baking soda) took place a couple years ago after reading Adel Moussa’s first articles on it. The results looked interesting so I decided to do a little Me-search with it prior to recommending it to others. I saw that many of the studies had used 200-300 mg/kg body weight which for me at a body weight of 77 kg the time came out to ~ 15 -23g. Looking at the nutrition label of baking soda box, I thought I read that 1¬ tablespoon (tbsp) = 4.8g. Being that I always like to start “low” and build up with some supplements which have known adverse side effects (For baking soda – GI tract issues), I decided to start with 2 ½ tbsp which based off my calculations would have provided me with ~ 156 mg/kg. Needless to say, it was an awful experience. Not only did it taste horrible but my GI tract screamed bloody murder. If that wasn’t enough I had cotton mouth all day long with an unquenchable thirst. Thinking that maybe my system just wasn’t ready to handle that load I dropped down to 2 tbsp the following 2 workouts. Although not as bad as the 2.5 tbsp, I still felt absolutely horrible.

After these experiences I shied away from baking soda supplementation and didn’t really recommend it to others. However, a few months back I decided to try it again accept use more of a serial loading approach (ie – multiple smaller doses spread over the day) vs. 1 big dose pre-workout. It was at this time I realized a colossal mistake from my first round of Me-search…. The nutrition label said TEAspoon (tsp), not TABLEspoon. At that moment, it all made sense as to why I was had so many issues with it when first starting off… I was consuming ~ 36g (467 mg/kg) and ~28.8g (375mg/kg) of the stuff in one serving; All those horrible supplement experiences simply because I misread the serving size label. Ugh – Facepalm. As a semi-related sidenote, now that I am correctly taking tsp vs. tbsp doses of the stuff, I absolutely love it.

Lesson learned… always double check the serving size of something … especially when the side effects of overdosing include GI tract disturbances.

Bottom line

Well I’ve shared with you some of my classic “Ugh- Facepalm” moments as an athlete, coaching, researching & writing articles. There are plenty more of these moments of brilliance in my personal/professional career. However, if I share anymore, I’m afraid you’ll start thinking to yourself, "Wow – Sean Casey is a complete idiot… maybe he’s not the best one to seek advice from…". Thus, I think this is an excellent spot to end!


1 Alex E. Proimos. Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal in Tuileries Garden in Paris, France. 14 December 2009, 20:35:47. Accessed March 30, 2014 from:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Paris_Tuileries_Garden_Facepalm_statue.jpg

2 Shanghai killer whale. Sufferers of chronic fatigue syndrome experience tiredness and unrefreshing sleep. Accessed March 31, 2014 from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Chronic_fatigue_syndrome.JPG

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Written on March 31, 2014 by Sean Casey
Last Updated: April 01, 2014

This information is not intended to take the place of medical advice.Please check with your health care providers prior to starting any new dietary or exercise program. CasePerformance is not responsible for the outcome of any decision made based off the information presented in this article.

About the Author: Sean Casey is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with degrees in both Nutritional Science-Dietetics and Kinesiology-Exercise Physiology. Sean graduated academically as one of the top students in both the Nutritional Science and Kinesiology departments.
Field Experience: During college, Sean was active with the UW-Badgers Strength and Conditioning Department. He has also spent time as an intern physical preparation coach at the International Performance Institute in Bradenton, FL. He also spent time as an intern and later worked at Athletes Performance in Tempe, AZ. While at these locations he had the opportunity to train football, soccer, baseball, golf and tennis athletes. Sean is also active in the field of sports nutrition where he has consulted with a wide variety of organizations including both elite (NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars) and amateur athletic teams. His nutrition consultation services are avalable by clicking on the Nutrition Consultation tab.