For those of you who don’t know, we do an athlete spotlight series of interviews here at The Strength Agenda that we call Force Feeds. If you are late to the party, be sure to check out our first batch featuring Brandon Lilly, Igor Lukanin, and Elisabeth Akinwale. Our next batch promises to be just as good so to start it off I present to you Lucas Parker. I am particularly excited about this one. I am by no means even close to ever being a crossfitter but I am a HUGE fan of this guy. Besides being a 3-time Crossfit Games competitor he is a pretty good weightlifter. His intensity is contagious and he has a pretty sweet beard to boot! We all know that a good beard is guaranteed to give you an 10% increase in strength. Lucas was kind enough to sit down with us at the Strength Agenda and chat about his training, recovery, and what’s next for him. He also shared a quick energy boosting recipe in the interview, be sure to check that out .
1.Thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell me a little bit about your sport/background? What were your first interests? How many sports did/have you participated in? How did you get to where you are now?
I’ve always been physically active, and I’ve always competed with intensity in some form or another. As a child, I loved to go adventuring with my friends, riding mountain bikes or climbing trees. Through high school I got into rugby, soccer, and karate. We won Provincials (for you Americans, that’s like taking the state banner, I think) in both rugby and soccer, even though we were one of the smallest (bothy physically and numerically) teams in B.C. I attribute much of our success to our excellent strength & conditioning program. In University, classes started adding up, and I found it difficult to commit to team practices and Games. I still had time to train on my own – this is when I got into CrossFit.
2. What are some of your accolades you have collected to date?
In CrossFit, I’ve competed at the Games 3 years in a row since 2011, placing 26th, 15th, and 19th. In weightlifting I’ve taken 1st place at the B.C. Provincial Championship as well as the Western Canada Championship.
3. How important do you believe food/nutrition is to being a better athlete? Any specific plans or ideologies you follow?
I am very strict about how I eat – just not in the way most people think. Generally, folks associate nutrition with restriction; avoid this, avoid that. Where I put my focus and energy is making sure that I take in enough caloric material to sustain my level of activity. This can feel like a full-time job.
This is hugely important. You can be eating all the kale and free-range chicken in the world, but if you are not putting enough energy in your body, you will not see the gains you want as an athlete. So, what I’m saying is, I’m not afraid of a cheeseburger or a bagel every now and then.
Having said that, in the offseason my volume has been reduced. So, I have had an easy time eliminating some less-than-ideal food like pastas and breads. With a reduction in typically inflammatory foods, I have noticed a decrease in my aches and pains – always a good thing! Moving forward, I’m planning on being a little more discerning about where I get my fuel.
Here’s a quick between-session energy booster I’ve been using:
One yam (I use a microwave auto-setting, takes about 5-6 mins to get it nice and soft) cut in half and scraped out into a bowl.
coconut oil: Dump in a generous clump (maybe 3+ tablespoons?), mush it around.
add some REAL maple syrup, some sea salt, mush it around a bit more. It’s like baby food for grownups. Enjoy.
4. What does your supplement plan look like?
I take a typical assortment of vitamins and minerals: vitamin D, C, B, magnesium, etc. I also take a fish oil from my sponsor, Epic Nutrients. It’s seriously good stuff – helps me eliminate soreness from Regionals and the CrossFit Games in 2-3 days. I also use a delicious whey protein from JAKTRX. It’s got the added benefit of having some coconut oil, glutamine, glucosamine, and lots of other goodies thrown in. At the end of the day, there are no miracle pills or powders. Most athletes will tell you, we generally take these supplements to shore ourselves up against possible deficiency. If you can’t wrap your head (or wallet) around supplements, don’t sweat it – you can get pretty much everything you need from a balanced, calorie-dense diet.
5. What recovery techniques do you use if any? What have you found works best and what have you found useless/less effective?
The big one I’ve been swearing by lately is the voodoo band – it’s a simple yet comprehensively effective way of dealing with joint restriction and muscle pain. I particularly like it for my ankle and shoulder. However, If you can afford it, at the top of my list is professional treatment.
I’m lucky enough to be sponsored by Synergy Health Management here in Victoria, and they throw the kitchen sink at me: active release, graston (horrible), shockwave (SERIOUSLY horrible – probably in the top 5 painful experiences in my life) and acupuncture. Nothing is better than being totally passive and allowing the practitioner to have their way with your tissues – self-release is great, foam rolling is great, but I believe if you are actively moving, supporting, and activating your injured tissues or your sub-optimal motor patterns, this is a barrier to treating/correcting them.
Last year I did a lot of ice bathing in the ocean, experimenting with different depths and durations of submersion. When all is said and done, I believe that ice bathing is a noxious stimulus: your body doesn’t like it, and responds by releasing stress hormones. For the average Joe, this may result in a healthy stress adaptation, but for a high-intensity athlete, this might be overkill. I’m now in favour of more relaxing treatments like hot-tubs and epsom salts.
6. Walk us through a day in your life: what do you eat? When and how long do you train?
CrossFit did a great “day in the life” video of me during the summer, so I’ll spare you the details of how I cut my bacon in the morning… Generally, I try to start the day with a big dose of fried veggies, coconut oil for fat, and some sort of red/pink meat. This all provides sustained energy for my lifting session, which usually takes 2-3 hours. Depending on the time of year, I’ll focus on different exercises or reps, but my warmup always takes 40-60 minutes, with lots of joint prep and core activation thrown in to guard against injury.
last year, I would then head to class and sit in a tiny desk for 2-3 hours – bad idea! Now that I’m done school, I’m able to spend that time at home recovering, stretching, hot-tubbing, and refueling. My second session will usually involve some conditioning. During the offseason that is usually monostructural (running, rowing, swimming, etc) but this year I’m experimenting with doing some more WOD-type workouts earlier in my cycle.
Then, in the evening I might coach a couple crossfit classes. Most of my socializing happens in the gym. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by people that I genuinely respect and enjoy spending time with! If I have enough energy on the weekend, I might go to a movie, or take my girlfriend out on a date. I might drink a beer, like, once a month? I’m not very fun to hang out with.
7. What’s the best piece of advice someone has ever given you in regards to training and getting stronger? Anything you would like pass on to someone trying to get where you are?
Training is not any single event… not any single workout, or week’s worth of workouts, or month of workouts. Training is a lifetime. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the comings and goings of performance from day to day. At an elite level this can be extremely discouraging, because sometimes you might not see a 1kg increase in weight or a 1 second decrease in time for a whole damn year. That can crush you, if you let it.
Conversely, if you step back and look at your progress across seasons and from year to year, it is easier to be hopeful about the future. In 2012 at the Games, I cleaned 325. this year, I cleaned 355… and I had some shitty training sessions in between, you better believe it.
8. What is your favorite lift or body part to train? What is your least favorite lift or body part to train?
My favourite body part is probably my butt – it has powered me through some challenging situations! Once you figure out how to incorporate your hips into all your activities, life gets a lot more forceful and a lot more fun. Right now I’m enjoying power cleans, and looking forward to deadlifts in my next cycle. I usually don’t enjoy rowing because of my relatively short stature and moderate bodyweight (and its tendency to wreak havoc on one’s posture via the back and hips), but I’m learning to accept the challenge.
9. What is the most impressive feat of strength you have accomplished to date?
I was pretty proud of a workout I did in preparation for the 2013 Games: 6 front squats at 315, 1 front squat at 405, for 4 rounds. About a month ago I got through 10 sets of 3 on the back squat at 435, which I would not recommend to anyone! I’m learning to focus less on my 1RM numbers, and find victories in accumulation of work and intensity.
10. Plug time! What are some projects you are working on and is there anything you would like us to check out? Thanks for your time.
I’ve got some big stuff brewing in the background – in the coming months, stay tuned for official announcements. For now, you can follow me on twitter and instagram @toqueluc. I also have a facebook page you can “like.” These are the best avenues for people to contact me, hear about my training, and to receive updates about competitions, seminars, and appearances.
Whether you are a strongman, powerlifter, or crossfitter there is always more to learn. The purpose behind these athlete interviews is for you to see what the people at the top of different sports do. There are a lot of similarities but there are also subtle differences that separate them from the rest of the pack. Hopefully you are able to pick something up that you can apply to your training and excel with it. Each month we will post a new interview so stay tuned for our next Force Feeds interview!