Instagram, @toqueluc - photo by Tyson Oldroyd
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hello! My name is Lucas Parker. I grew up in Victoria, BC, on the West Coast of Canada. I feel like I have been training my whole life – my parents told me that when I was a baby, I would practice falling before I tried to walk.
I would fall and catch myself, fall and catch myself, over and over, for countless sets and reps, in preparation for the more advanced skill. So, it seems I am well-suited to the training principles of progression, volume, repetition, etc.
As a child, I tried a wide range of sports, and enjoyed climbing trees and riding fast on my bicycle. My father taught me about exercise; how to perform push-ups, lift dumbbells, do the long-jump, and sprint with good form.
In my teenage years, I got more serious about training and nutrition, lifting weights for rugby, and trying different diets to build muscle or lose bodyfat. As I progressed into university, I found it too complicated to continue committing to the rugby schedule, but I still wanted to train on my own time. So, it was a natural and easy transition for me to shift into CrossFit training and competitions. That’s what I have been doing since 2010!
My first competition was 10 years ago at the British Columbia Sectional. From there, I finished 10th in Canada at the Canadian Regional. Based on that result, I believed that if I trained well for the next year, I could qualify for the CrossFit Games. I did exactly that the next season, competing at the 2011 CrossFit Games in California.
From that point on, I competed at The Games for six years in a row. I’ve also had the opportunity to attend events around the world, from Australia, to South Africa, to France, Italy, and many other amazing places.
Describe a typical day of training
A typical day of training will look different depending on what part of the year I am in, what phase of training I’m in, and if I’m preparing for a competition. I suppose that’s the idea of periodization: Shifting the emphasis of your workouts from block to block in order to target particular results.
Regardless of what my training goals are, I usually have two sessions in a day. The first session could have more emphasis on cyclical activities like rowing/running/swimming, or it could be an intense CrossFit conditioning piece or testing workout.
The second session could focus on Olympic lifting, or maybe gymnastics skills and “movement work” (exercises from my coach, designed to target a position, joint, or restriction).
I always include a thorough warm up! My warm up and preparation is important to me – I want to feel good and ready, like I am “firing on all cylinders,” before I start to speed around the racetrack…
The warm up usually includes 10-15 mins of rotating through biking, rowing, and ski-erg machines. Then I perform 30 minutes of joint preparation: I focus on mobilizing my feet/ankles, activating my hips, and gaining range of motion through my shoulders.
I try to keep this as active as possible: Rather than a passive yoga stretch, I prefer controlled active rotations, dynamic movements, and isometric holds. This seems to give the best increase in force, and reduction of pain/irritation.
Finally, I practice the specific movements required for my workout: for example, maybe I do some light barbell lifts and progressions for the snatch, and/or swing on the rings to get ready for muscle ups. That’s the warm up!
Hard training should always have a goal or target; why am I doing this exercise? What will this session help me with? I try to have that idea clear in my mind as I go through my workout. It keeps me motivated, focused, and productive. I think a workout should feel like a laser beam, rather than a shotgun blast.
One area I definitely need to improve on is my cool down – I am always tired and tempted to just rush home and sit on the couch. However, I know that I always feel better, and have better readiness to train again, if I take a few moments to cool down with some light cardio, a few stretches, and think about how my session went.
If I don’t do it after training, I make sure to do some stretches and breathing before bed – this will look more like yoga: sustained, passive postures, trying to relax the muscles and mind.
You’ll notice after reading this, that it sounds like pretty boring, basic advice – warm up well, work hard with intention, and cool down. You’ve probably read that 1000 times, and are eager to move on to more advanced concepts; to hear the real secrets and juicy details of elite training.
However, that’s pretty much it! Every day that I train, I try to nail the basics. And then do it again. After months and months, and years and years of this, I am happy with the progress, skills, and physique that I am developing.
Instagram, @toqueluc - photo by Kevin Rom
How do you keep going and push harder?
If training is a nightmare and the idea of going to the gym every day scares me, that level of intensity is probably not sustainable. One of the coaches I know, Evan Peikon from Training Think Tank has summarized this very well:
“No amount of work you can do in a day will ever equate to, or surpass the amount of work you can do across a week, or month while following an intelligently planned training program.”
For me, this takes some of the pressure off to feel like I need to squeeze every ounce out of myself every day – and it makes it a lot easier to stay relaxed and keep going through my program!
The idea of pushing harder is something that seems to come down to the millisecond – the moment to moment decision to keep working, to keep applying the pressure, to stay focused and relentless. It seems to be a skill that needs to be practiced in each moment – it’s not really something you can get better at by just imagining it!
So, I like to use each workout as an opportunity to develop that skill. During a tough CrossFit workout, this usually means testing yourself to reduce the rest time or breaks between exercises.
On an easier training day, this can mean testing yourself to control your breath and stop your mind from wandering — again and again and again.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
I think the future will be exciting for me! I plan to continue competing in CrossFit for now – after six years at The Games, I failed to qualify in 2019. So, my goal now is to make a comeback. I know I am capable of elite performances and I want to showcase that before the next generation of young athletes comes in and pushes all the veterans out (this process has already begun!!)
I have no doubt I will continue to train in some sport – perhaps I will focus on weightlifting. Fun fact: In 2010, I attended a training camp for the Canadian Bobsled team! So, maybe I will return and try my hand at that sport.
It is considered “late entry,” which means athletes can succeed there as adults, after focusing on other sports. I think my strength and speed would be well suited to the need to push a sled as fast as possible.
I get asked very often if I will open a gym – my answer is: Not any time soon! I have seen behind the scenes how much work it takes to execute a solid business plan and build a close community. I enjoy traveling and competing, so I would not want my attention and resources to be locked into one location.
Instagram, @toqueluc - photo by Training Day Media
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
Sleep! I would guess that sleep is the closest equivalent to steroids… Maybe more effective in the long term. Sleep deprivation seems to be something that will kill any hope of progress, no matter what elite program you are on.
I like to sleep! Here are some of the things I do to ensure I get the most benefit:
- Darkness: Blocking out as much light as possible really seems to help. When I travel, I have been known to buy tinfoil and tape it over the hotel windows to block out the light (when the blinds aren’t thick enough). I also use tape or spare clothes to cover alarm clocks, smoke detectors, and TV lights that annoyingly brighten the room. At home, I have big thick blinds – and an eye cover (like a blindfold).
- Temperature: I tend to run very hot, like a racecar… so at night I need to make sure I lower my body temperature. This can be a challenge – I need to eat a lot, but if I eat too close to bedtime, it jacks up my metabolism and I lay in bed hot and sweaty. Even in the Canadian winter, I will often crack the window open to get nice and cold. This really seems to provide a much deeper sleep!
- Supplements: I use a few things to improve my sleep; especially when I travel! Melatonin is affordable and effective – I like small doses (1-3 mg) so I can adjust as needed. Magnesium is great because it acts more on the muscles, giving a physical feeling of relaxation which helps me get to sleep.
Be careful as some magnesiums are a powerful laxative. I always get magnesium bisglycinate – it’s connected to glycine, which makes it more readily absorbed into muscles. The brand I use is Max Sleep from Nova 3 Labs: You can see their products here, use promo code “lucasparker” for a discount.
CBD oil (extracted from hemp) is my newest tool. It feels like it acts on both the brain and the muscles. I get a good feeling of calm and relaxation pretty quickly after using the drops under the tongue. It is a more expensive product, but the ease, effectiveness, and speed of use are excellent.
I just started promoting the CBD products from Releaf Topical Wellness – a legit Canadian company that is guaranteed to be free from THC. Visit their website here and use promo code “lucas10” for a discount.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
Aside from the products I mentioned for sleep, I also use a handful of supplements for health and performance. People seem to be split on this topic of nutrition – some say that you should only eat natural, whole foods and not consume anything from a laboratory.
However, I am of the belief that when you are training for sports performance, the benefit and assurance you gain from supplementation outweighs the risk of being deficient or lacking in certain vitamins, minerals, or compounds.
Creatine is something I definitely respond to – I gain weight from it and notice an improvement in power. It seems to help with short bursts and heavy efforts, but it should be used wisely around competition: Weighing 5-10lbs extra might negatively effect certain athletes.
Beta alanine is an intracellular lactate buffer. In other words, it acts within the muscle cell to deal with lactic acid. It seems to help with hard bouts of effort – like a 500m row or the CrossFit workout “Fran.”
Beetroot, or beet juice, is a natural source of nitrates. Your body converts this to chemicals that expand the blood vessels. This can provide better blood flow and easier delivery of oxygen for longer “aerobic” efforts. I notice my heart rate is lower on long distance running when I use beet products.
So, you’ll notice I’ve essentially mentioned all the major “energy systems.” The creatine phosphate system, the glycolytic system (lactic system), and the aerobic system. By providing fuel for each one, I believe I enhance my CrossFit performance, which requires a wide range of workout styles.
I recommend you find a “generic” (or cheap) version of all these products – they are simple ingredients, and any extra cost for flashy packaging or premium brands is wasted money! If you compete in a sport that requires drug testing, I suggest you research a brand that is certified to be free of banned substances.
What has inspired and motivated you?
My coach, Max El Hag from Training Think Tank, gave me a book to read. It’s called, “How Bad Do You Want it?” The title is somewhat aggressive, but the book is very thoughtful and well organized.
It’s written by a sports journalist who has been behind the scenes at many of the most gruelling tests of fitness – Iron Man, Tour De France, and things like that. He uses firsthand experience, interview statements, and historical records to tell his stories.
This is how the book works: Each chapter begins with a story; the account of a particular athlete who overcame a challenge or failed/succeeded in a particular way. Then, the author uses that story as an example of a particular psychological or scientific principle. In other words, the book is part sport-psychology, and part exciting stories.
The main takeaway of the book is this: Perceived suffering, and rate of perceived exertion, is the main limiter and determining factor for endurance performance.
All the training, science, and strategies that athletes use should in some way make improvements in this area. It sounds simple, but the inspiring stories from the book really motivated me to pay closer attention to the mental side of my training.
I highly recommend you read it!
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
This might be frustrating to read: My advice would be to expose yourself to as much information and as many viewpoints as possible!
In other words, go ask this question to more people! Every coach, every athlete or celebrity, will have a different perspective on what it takes to improve and succeed. None of them are right or wrong – they are just context dependent.
After enough research and experimentation, you will perhaps find “your tribe,” or people who have similar goals to yourself.
To give you a slightly more concrete answer, a fast way to improve would be to find a coach. Having an extra set of eyes, and an extra brain, to provide feedback and guidance, can help you skip a lot of the mistakes that beginners make when they venture out on their own.
This is not to say there is a shortcut to success – but there is a way to avoid the rockiest, bumpiest path.
I learned many years ago, in martial arts, the idea of “the student and the warrior.” When you bow, an open hand covering a closed fist represents the priority of education over aggression.
Reminding yourself to be humble and open to new information will provide much better gains in your muscle, health, and fitness over the long term.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I primarily coach “in person.” My strength is definitely in hands-on, face to face corrections and explanations. If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line and we can set up a session!
I typically avoid online coaching but it’s something I’m open to if the client and I have good chemistry.
Where can we learn more about you?
I’m pretty active on Instagram – my handle is @toqueluc.
A “toque” is our Canadian word for a knit cap or “beanie.” And Luc, of course, is me!
I try to keep things pretty light and entertaining online, and respond to messages and comments when I can. Drop me a line and let me know what you thought of this interview!
Ready to get really fit and inspired?
I’m Mads Phikamphon, founder of Bulk Hackers.
Here on Bulk Hackers we interview bodybuilders, personal trainers and fitness heroes. We ask them to share their stories and all their greatest hacks!
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