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Archived Interview
Darren Flagg

Movement educator at The Spot Gym
early May, 2003

Darren Flagg Darren Flagg Darren Flagg Darren Flagg Darren Flagg


FRB:  Tell us about your methods of training Darren?

Darren: I focus on physically and mentally challenging the individual or entity in front of me. Whether we're working on agility, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, power, speed, or strength one needs to push their limits.

FRB: What is your training and background in
          movement education?

Darren: It's a continuous work-in-progress. Nevertheless, I began wrestling at age 3, started a systematic weight training program at 8 (thanks dad), won several national wrestling titles, and earned a silver medal in world competition by 14. I wrestled at the University of Michigan for just over a year, retired in 1992 and started focusing on exercise physiology. I earned a BS in Kinesiology from Michigan in 1995 working with professor Victor Katch and had the opportunity to work as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the athletic department. I retained a position for about 5 years, learning from living legend Mike Gittleson. I came to Colorado in 1999 to study neural control of human movement with Roger Enoka and earned a MS in 2000 from CU.

FRB: How did you get into climbing Darren?

Darren: I've only been bouldering for about 7 weeks. I watched people at the Spot and after a short time decided to lace on some shoes. I'm hooked, since then I get in a minimum of 2 days/week.

FRB: What brings you to the Spot?

Darren: The opportunity to get in front of individuals who value health and understand the benefit attained from the work I do.

FRB: What are some the unique challenges
          your training provides?

Darren: Training is very personal and relative to one's capacity, thus I try to systematically design intervals of hard-work. For one individual it may be hanging from a bar with a couple hundred pounds hanging from your waist, whereas another may be using their fingers to walk up a sledge hammer.

FRB: How do you train for balance and strength?

Darren: I use a variety of unstable surfaces such as soft mats and disks, BOSU balls, fit-balls, wobble-boards, etc. and have people perform resistance exercises and plyometric exercises on them.

FRB: What training programs do you offer?

Darren: I work with all types of people. I do private sessions, group training, team training, senior fitness and development, as well as corporate and hotel fitness programs. My clients range in age from 15-75 years and range in background from elite athletes, to wives and grandparents, to business executives. The only caveat is that you've got to want to work hard.

FRB: How about nutrition. What do you suggest?

Darren: I suggest individuals consume a balanced diet rife with proteins, fats, and carbohydrates and consume plenty of water. It is important to consume enough calories to have energy to work hard and perform optimally. Too often individuals restrict their caloric intake levels, hindering performance and actually slow their resting metabolic rate.

FRB: Resting and recovery are often overlooked.
          Can you shed some light on the subject?

Darren: Life is a Stress-Game. Since humans are living organisms, time must be allowed for our systems to adapt to particular stresses (a hard day climbing, training, etc.). Otherwise one runs the risk of exhaustion or more commonly injury. For a more detailed account of the stress response, refer to Hans Seyle's, The Stress of Life, or give me call.

FRB: What do you suggest for people who want to
          train at home?

Darren: Talk to a professional in order to establish a solid foundation and understanding of what is essential to achieve your goals and GO FOR IT!

FRB: What other sports are beneficial to the climber?

Darren: If you're competing at an elite level, one should train sport specific year-round and complement the routine with a balanced fitness regimen to prevent injury and increase performance. Concerning more recreational climbers, try any sport that interests you, but realize activities that enhance grip strength and core muscles will probably be most beneficial.

FRB: Sports drinks, gels and nutrition bars.
          Which do you recommend?

Darren: Eating properly and consuming enough water are paramount! The majority of folks I train use a water bottle as their primary supplement in order to replace fluid lost during exercise. Athletes that will benefit most from drinks, gels, and bars are endurance athletes who train for continuous intervals greater than 1 hour at a time. In these cases a deeper understanding of the glycemic value of foods is beneficial to keep blood sugar (insulin/glucose) at optimal levels for performance. However, this topic merits a lengthy discussion.

FRB: How is your training philosophy different than
          some conventional methods?

Darren: I believe in creating functionally challenging environments to develop people in the real world. I'm not really concerned if you can perform 3 sets of 12 pull-ups assisted on the Gravitron if you can't pull-up your own bodyweight, it's ludicrous. Commonly, exercises performed on fancy machinery provide a false sense of strength.

FRB: What do you mean by functionally challenging?

Darren: I create situations that demand the body to recruit as much of the neuromuscular system as possible during any given movement. My rationale is based on the fact that most movements encountered in our daily lives require the brain to control various muscle groups in a coordinated manner throughout the day, and we only get better at what we practice.

FRB: What types of athletes do you train?

Darren: I'm honored to work with any athlete. True athleticism is a combination of genetics, determination, and various physical abilities including; agility, balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, power, speed, strength, etc. and I strive to elicit elements from all of the above in every session.

FRB: Why do you train people?

Darren: I enjoy educating and challenging people, watching them develop and become stronger individuals in many ways.

FRB: Your company is called Animal Strength.
           What's the origin?

Darren: We're all animals, right? Perhaps at times we need to tap our innate abilities in order to push ourselves beyond our currently accepted limits.

FRB: Describe an optimal resistance program?

Darren: I believe 2-3 days of hard work/week is all that's necessary in order to yield positive muscular adaptations. It's very important to allow time for rest and eat well in order to improve. However, other modes of training can be cycled into the program, appropriate to the individual's competitive schedule. I still always have at least one complete rest day a week (I wish.)

FRB: Fast or Slow movements?

Darren: You should always vary things because you adapt to specific stresses. Nevertheless, if one wishes to optimize stress when strength training, a slower concentric movement will place a greater demand on the working muscles. I use slow eccentric movements primarily in negative only movements to prevent injury, but there's no major benefit otherwise while lowering a constant load.

FRB: I've heard that you make people work extremely hard and sometimes one may even feel sick?

Darren: That is never the desired outcome, but I keep a bucket around just in case. Honestly, our bodies are wired to tell us to give-up much before true physiological limits. I just show people how to perform at safe levels beyond what they are accustomed to, and over time we adapt.

FRB: Thanks for the interview Darren?

Darren: Thank you.

Contact Darren at: allsportsd2002@yahoo.com

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