Pumping Metal: Like Rats Guitarist Todd Nief Discusses CrossFit and His Own Chicago-based Gym, South Loop Strength & Conditioning

- Jun 03, 2016 at 11:25AM
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Released on March 25, 2016 and clocking in at 33 minutes and 3 seconds long, II is the new, sordid 8-track offering from Chicago death metal scumbags Like Rats (read our review here). Featuring members of Chicago power-violence mob Weekend Nachos, Like Rats take the groove and the filthy riffs of the early '80s death metal scene and blend them with a dash of crunchy metallic hardcore. So, just how does the band throw down in the world of health and fitness? Guitarist Todd Nief was kind enough to elaborate....

Why and when did you got into fitness in the first place?
Nief: I played soccer growing up, but never had a structured training protocol other than "go running and do sprints and burpees as punishment." In college, I started following an alleged "Navy SEAL workout" that was just a shit ton of pull-ups, push-ups and dips. I would do that a few times a week with no real direction. I started CrossFit in 2008 since I had a lot of knee problems from soccer and I couldn’t really run without pain, and that was the first time that I actually felt like I was getting better at fitness. I was sort of like "wait, why didn’t anyone tell me about this?"

Weights, cardio, calisthenics, CrossFit, MMA... what's your jam?
Nief: I used to train to compete in CrossFit, but now I mostly coach other competitors. I own a gym in Chicago (South Loop Strength & Conditioning – www.southloopsc.com) and small business ownership is not conducive to serious training. To train seriously in a sport like CrossFit, you need to have so many aspects of your life dialed – stress, nutrition, sleep, etc. and the amount of stress from running a small business kind of broke me while I was trying to train like an athlete. If SLSC ever gets out of start-up mode, I do hope to resume training somewhat seriously again.

Describe your weekly routine and/or an average workout for you?
Nief: I have a chronic wrist ligament injury from soccer, so what I can do in the gym is somewhat limited. I told my coach (Michael FitzGerald – www.optimumperformancecalgary.com) that I needed to be training for something though, so I’ve been working towards hitting 200 calories in 10 minutes on the Assault bike (an updated version of Mark Twight’s 300FY workout which is 300 calories in 10 minutes on an airdyne – the Assault bikes count a bit slower, so 200 is the magic number there).



What music gets you extra pumped when you're exercising?
Nief: Anyone relying on external stimulus like music to get pumped while working out is doing it wrong. Although, that’s an introvert speaking so....

Do you ever listen to your own band's music when working out?
Nief: Sometimes people at the gym are like "come on, put on Like Rats, let’s listen to it, let’s listen to Like Rats." And I’m like "I mean you don’t actually want to listen to this, but that’s fine." So I humor them and put on Like Rats.

Some people go Vegetarian and Vegan while others slam steaks, whole poultry farms, and a kitchen sink in regimented 6-meal sittings. Where does your diet sit?
Nief: I used to be organized with my nutrition when I was training seriously, but I have to watch out for not eating enough. I often will lose control of my schedule, so if I don’t prioritize eating and make sure I food prep at least once per week, I can under-eat dramatically. I also tend to not want to eat when I’m stressed out. As far as dietary restrictions, I’m not strict, but I prefer to avoid sugar, flour and vegetable oil. I eat a lot of the same things, so typical meals are:

Breakfast: shake with full-fat kefir, frozen berries, spinach, whey protein powder and some baking chocolate and nuts and a big-ass pink lady apple.
Lunch: whatever crockpot meal I’ve made for the week (chili, chicken korma, chicken curry) with white rice.
Dinner: eggs with white rice and kim chi.
Post-workout I take a shake with whey protein, some carbohydrate, and creatine. I also snack on RxBars and Think Jerky as necessary

Supplements, yay or nay, and why/why not?
Nief: Supplements are overrated, but I take creatine post-workout. I also take garlic since that seems to prevent me from getting sick, some form of adaptogenic herb like ashwagandha to help with stress management, and a B complex, Vitamin D and fish oil since I have some genetic polymorphisms that increase my requirements for those nutrients.


Morning, noon, evening, night... when do you like to exercise? Does it even matter?
Nief: Ideally, I train in the middle of the afternoon. Often, I piece it together whenever I can and finish up sessions late at night after the gym is closed.

Have you ever tried steroids?
Nief: Seems like it’s probably awesome to be on growth hormone, but haven’t gone down that path. I’ll ask Stallone next time I talk to him.

What's your opinion on performance enhancing drugs?
Nief: It’s complicated. If you haven’t either been an athlete at the highest level on your sport or coached athletes at the highest level in your sport, you have no idea what those people go through to compete. They have nagging injuries that won’t heal if they keep doing the training and competitions that they need to do to get paid. They have contracts and sponsorships that won’t renew if they’re injured. They see the results that their peers are getting using PEDs, and they recognize that their future in their sport is limited if they "stay clean."

This isn’t an attempt to justify PED usage – more just an understanding that it’s not like people wake up one day and say "you know what, fuck the world, I’m an egomaniac and I’m going to cheat to win." This absolutely happens in the case of some folks with like narcissistic personality disorder, but – a lot of the time – it’s more that people are fighting to keep playing the sport that they love at an elite level, and based upon the widespread use of PEDs amongst their peers, the stigma gets removed.

All that said, I obviously don’t support people using PEDs in tested sports and the long-term health consequences of some of these substances don’t make sense for anyone to risk if they’re not getting paid or they’re not shooting to be the absolute best of the best, but I think the subject is complicated and very few people have the perspective to understand what is actually going on here.

Check out the album II

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