Friday, March 26, 2010

Runnin' Man

Took off of work today and that meant hitting the pavement this morning for some road work. It was cold and miserable, but that didn't effect the run at all - just under four miles, interspersed with some sprints and what I envision to be my "marathon pace."

Since adjusting my form, I don't feel any pain anywhere during or after running and I feel as though I'm moving much more efficiently, not too far back in the past an almost four mile run with lots of speed play (including sprints) would have had me sucking wind at the end - today I felt like a million bucks after cooling down and getting inside.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Still Nursing the Thumb

I've been putting in the work, but it's not been very exciting. The thumb of my left hand is still hurt, which has meant virtually no weight training and certainly no grip training. My workouts have pretty much been conditioning based with some body weight strength training (mostly leg, along with some dips and such, nothing that will further aggravate the injury).

On the up side, my wind seems to be improving pretty quickly and from the body weight movements that I've been doing, it doesn't really seem as though I'm losing any strength, but we'll test that out for sure once the thumb has completely healed!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Best Hydration Belt

Planning on taking on my first marathon this fall has me doing quite a bit of conditioning work in addition to my "normal" training - and now that the weather has finally seemed to break, I've actually gotten outside on some training runs. The longer the training run that you're planning, the more important it is to have a convenient way to hydrate yourself - sure you could carry a bottle (and some people prefer this method), but it's easier for me to maintain proper mechanics and get the most out of a long run if I don't have to worry about holding onto something for God knows how many miles.

So - for those of you who are avid runners looking for the best possible hydration belt, or for those of you who are just getting ready to take part in the wonders of scampering tons of miles per week (with or without a race goal in mind), I give you the # 1 pick for hydration...

The Run Lite 3 from Amphipod is so lightweight that you barely realize it's there, but it hugs tight enough to stay exactly where it's supposed to without bouncing around as you pound the pavement, track or trail.

The beauty of this belt (and the entire Run Lite line from Amphipod) is that you can truly make it your own. If you are going out on a three mile "out and back" that you are greatly familiar with, you can pop one bottle into the clip and have enough to get you through your run without adding any extra weight. If you opt to go on an a wild excursion that will last much of the day you can add extra bottles to the belt, but position them at any place you choose so you can be completely comfortable even though you are carrying enough to hydrate an army.

The Run Lite 3 is just about the easiest belt to use as well, rather than fumbling with pockets and pouches - the bottles snap into clips so easily and securely that you can remove and replace them with one hand, but with no fear that they'll come loose and hit the pavement after heavy jostling.

The Amphipod Run Lite 3 is the most comfortable, most convenient and easiet to use hydration belt that I've ever tried - for long or short runs, that's why it takes the top spot on the list of best hydration belts:

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Conditioning and Thumb Injury

I honestly don't know exactly how it happened, I didn't feel anything until a while after my workout the other night - no pull, no pop, not even a twinge but about an our after my indian club workout a few days back I felt a deep ache at the base of my thumb. At first I didn't think a whole lot of it, but it hasn't really shown much sign of improvement - it's pretty much holding me up from doing any serious strength work involving my left hand.

Sooooo, my workouts have been focused on the conditioning side for the last few days. I've been doing stair sprints, plyos, hill sprints, high rep bodyweight squats and chair squats - my quads are suffering, but in a good way.

I've waded my way through about half of Born to Run in the little free time I get at night after the kids are in bed, and so far it just keeps getting better and better.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Night's Workout & Reading

Last night's workout consisted of supersets of deadlifts and clean & press.

This was a combination that I have never done before in a superset - one word that comes to mind is Brutal! I kept the weights relatively light and worked with purpose throughout - no wasted time or movement and it didn't take too long to feel all but spent.

After a few minutes of recovery from the supersets, I spent a little time with my homemade indian clubs and working on general mobility. Overall it was a great workout, and though I expected to feel it a bit today I'm a little surprised by just how much the clean & press effected me (in a good way though).

Once workout and shower were done, I settled down and started reading Born to Run, which arrived on my doorstep yesterday afternoon. I cruised through the first few chapters prior to bed time and am thus far very impressed - you can expect a review once I've finished it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Outrageous Feat of Strength

Just stumbled upon this video of Rob Russell flipping an 80k kettlebell - not 80 pound, 80k. For those of you not in the mood to do the math, or away from a program that will do the calculation for you - that is around 176 lbs.

I've juggled kettlebells quite a bit, have played around with some interesting techniques and practiced with what I thought were some pretty heavy bells considering - but this feat is absolutely incredible.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Yesterday hit about 55 degrees in our neck of the woods, so the beginning part of my workout was spent in the great outdoors. 2.5 mile walk with the weighted vest loaded to full capacity - felt good, the sun was out and for the first time in the last several weeks (probably months), I didn't encounter any snow at all.

The rest of the workout consisted of mainly core and mobility work: planks and side planks for time, shoulder dislocations and plenty of stretching. I didn't make it out to get my sandbag materials, but I plan to hit the old Depot one night during the week so I can have it all put together by the time next weekend rolls around.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Last Night's Workout

Nothing too crazy - one ten minute set of swings, switching hands as needed started the night off. I followed up with 50 BUPs switching hands as needed and finished the whole thing off with some mobility work - in and out in less than 30 minutes.

I ordered Born to Run yesterday as well, I've heard great things about it - and considering my contemplation of running a marathon this fall, it seemed an appropriate read.

If this weekend is less hectic than the past few, I plan on hitting Home Depot to pick up the necessary supplies for making a new sandbag. It's above forty degrees outside and for the first time in a looooong time, there isn't any snow on the ground - it that holds I'll try and hit the backyard for some much needed, open air working out.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is your Gear doing more Harm than Good?

I take a look around the gym and I see more and more “safety” accessories on the bodies of weight lifters and while I’m a firm believer in preventing injury while in the gym, I question whether much of this gear is really necessary. It’s much easier to be safe by learning how to properly perform a lift than by the addition of more and more equipment to do the job that proper technique should be doing.

If you are a competitive power lifter or a strongman competitor, it makes plenty of sense to strap on the equipment in training that you’ll be using during competition. Things like bench shirts, deadlift suits and compression shorts do add pounds to lifts and they require a certain amount of technique to perfect, so if you are going to be using this gear during competition, training with it would be wise so you are fully prepared when you jump up on the platform.

If you are a recreational lifter, with no plans of participating in strength competitions where gear is allowed or required, you might be doing yourself a terrible disservice by regularly training with a bunch of excess and possibly unnecessary gear.

Weightlifting belts, straps, gloves, wraps and sleeves can serve a purpose, if you have the end of a six week cycle coming up and you are planning a max effort squat or deadlift to gauge your progress, by all means strap on your lifting belt through your heavy work sets and your max attempts. If you are planning an extra heavy bench session and feel more comfortable doing so with compression sleeves and wrist wraps you shouldn’t hesitate to wear them, but if you are someone who goes to the gym with the prime objective of getting stronger and building a better body, you might be better off without all of the accessories.

Even the most basic and common safety equipment can negatively affect your training by eliminating some parts of your body from the equation. Lifting straps allow you to do deadlifts, bent over rows, lat pull downs and pull ups without having to worry about your grip strength bringing your numbers down – while this may look good on paper it can seriously inhibit your functional strength. You can’t develop “real world” or usable strength by completely neglecting your grip – how many times will you come across a situation outside of the gym where you have to move something and there are straps available to assist you in the lift? That’s not to say that you need to spend extra time focusing solely on grip training, but tossing away the straps and performing the movements mentioned above without the extra assistance will help you to develop a powerful grip and make you an all around stronger person – even if your numbers do drop off a bit without the help.

The same goes for a weightlifting belt – a lot of proponents claim that they can’t do certain movements at all without one do to nagging injuries or pain, but what many people fail to realize is that performing movements like the squat and deadlift without the aid of a belt is one of the best things that you can do to strengthen your entire core and ultimately eliminate those nagging injuries, aches and pains. Properly performed squats and deadlifts give all of the stabilizing muscles in your core an incredible workout – if you constantly wear a weight belt while performing these movements you are removing nearly all of this added benefit. During exceedingly heavy sets, the addition of a belt can be a benefit, but for all warm up and regular work sets you should be reaping the full benefits of these movements by forgoing the use of gear.

Don’t let yourself become a slave to the numbers and get fooled into thinking that just because you can move a few extra pounds while you are all suited up in a variety of gear that you are actually getting a better workout. Lifting big weights is an incredible feeling, but to be a completely and functionally strong athlete, you can’t neglect any area of your body and doing most or all of your sets with equipment will force you to neglect very important pieces of the overall fitness puzzle.

If you’ve been doing all of your training with gear up to this point, dropping it and doing your lifting “raw” might feel like a pretty large slap to your ego, but you’ve just got to understand that you’ll be doing a lot more for your overall strength by adopting this new methodology – and if you are experienced with strength training and use proper form and follow a sound training protocol, the gains should come quickly as the previously neglected areas of your body get up to speed.

You should begin to notice almost immediately how the switch to gear free lifting translates to tasks in your everyday life and you’ll feel good aches in areas where you may not even had known that you had muscles previously. You’ll develop an iron grip and a bullet proof core without adding additional exercises or time to your workout and when you do strap on the gear for your max effort attempts you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the noticeable jump due to the fact that you have become equally strong in areas of your body that were previously major areas of weakness due to unintentional neglect.

People are always looking for ways to make the most out of the time that they spend in the gym and this is one of the best possible ways to do that – all of your stabilizing muscles will be called into play every time you perform a lift “raw” that you had previously performed using some kind of supportive or protective gear. Start out and progress slowly and train intelligently and in no time you’ll be thankful that your protective gear is no longer holding back your results or your functional strength.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Importance of Defining your Goals

Lots of people thoroughly enjoy their time in the gym and many others struggle each and every day, literally having to drag themselves out of bed in order to get their prescribed workout completed. It would seem obvious that the person who enjoys a good workout would likely have less trouble reaching their individual goals than the person who could barely stomach driving by the gym, but this isn’t always the case.

The ability to successfully achieve the goals set and doing so in a timely manner can depend upon quite a few factors, the least of which may be enjoying breaking a good sweat. If you don’t have a properly designed plan that focuses on achieving your ultimate goal, that goal could be very hard to come by - regardless of your level of passion and commitment to your workout.

For example - if your goal is to be a world class competitive bench presser, than the flat bench press would probably be the most likely choice to center your workouts around, in doing the exercise that you need to improve upon to reach your goal you will be both strengthening the particular muscles that need the most strengthening and you’ll be improving your technique which will also generate overall improvement. Of course you would need supplemental movements in your routine as well, many of them would work to strengthen the secondary muscles involved in the movement - the shoulders, triceps, lats and core; but the primary focus would be the flat bench press.

Following this very basic example, it should seem fairly obvious that if your goal were to cut your percentage of body fat by 5% and improve mobility that the bench press may not necessarily be the ideal focal point of your workout program, why then do I see so many men with so many different goals lying on the flat bench and pressing away three days a week?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the allure of the bench press - I also understand that is a pretty effective exercise for strengthening the pecs, what I don’t understand is why it is the focal point of so many exercise routines. We no longer live in the dark ages where this information is so exceedingly difficult to come by, there really aren’t any secrets anymore; in fact, there are a number of sources online where you can obtain high quality training information for free these days.

Too few people seem to be willing to do the appropriate research required to ease the road to their goal, and ultimately those are the people who eventually become frustrated with the lack of results and end up giving up. The problem in many cases isn’t genetics or the lack of time to be able to achieve a good workout; it’s a total mis-structure of the plan in relation to the goal.

The surprising thing to many people is that your passion or enjoyment for your workout may have very little to do with the level of success that you actually achieve from the time that you spend in the gym. You could literally enjoy every second of every hour that you spend working out for each of the six days a week that you visit your neighborhood gym, but if your plan isn’t properly tailored to reach the goals that you have for yourself you may never reach them; meanwhile the guy working out on the machine next to you struggles through each and every rep might reach his goal in what seems like record time because his routine has been well thought out in accordance with what he is trying to achieve.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with the bench press, I do it myself, but unless your primary objective in working out is to improve your bench press then it may not necessarily be the prime choice for a focal point of your routine. The same goes for a number of individual movements that I see being performed as the primary movements in routines everyday - dumbbell curls, lateral raises and dumbbell flies may all have very good places in routines as secondary movements depending on the individual goal, but none of them should be the primary movement in someone’s exercise routine.

If you don’t have a definitive goal - it’s time to get one, because the majority of your efforts in the gym will yield little return if you have no goal in mind. If you have a goal, thoroughly examine your workout routine in relation to your goal to ensure that the movements that you are performing will produce the results that you are after.

This is where some trainees simply can’t get along without the help of a good personal trainer (notice the italicized good in front of trainer, it’s not a mistake - if you are going to seek out a trainer to hire make sure that they are educated, respected and capable. Don‘t start spending money on a recommendation from your health club, get real life references), a trainer can help you define your foggy goals into something more concrete and tangible and they should be able to construct a solid road map to help get you there.

If you have plenty of experience in the area of fitness and proper diet, if you’ve properly educated yourself on these matters, you may not need to enlist the help of a trainer - but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the routine that you’ve designed for yourself will be an effective one to reach your goals. Every six weeks it’s good to re-examine the things that you are doing in the gym and to go back over your training journals to see exactly how you’ve been progressing.

There is no one perfect training routine, even people of similar ages and body types who have virtually the same goals may require different training programs in order to reach those goals. The key to your ultimate success is to develop as sound a strategy as you can toward your ultimate goal, then keep meticulous records as you progress and make any necessary changes along the way.

Some people let ego or single moment achievement get in the way of real life goals, you shouldn’t go to the gym and just bench press because that’s what all of your gym buddies do, nor should you sit lackadaisically pedaling in the spinning class because you think that it’s a good chance to pick up a woman - define your goals first, then train soundly to achieve them.

What Might have Been

The following post will be an article that was slated to run in a popular online magazine in December of '09. Sadly, like many seemingly solid ventures, this one couldn't fight it's way through the tough economic times and the articles (there are two in total, the second will be posted tomorrow) came back to me and I figured I'd post them here to give them the opportunity to be read.

Hope you enjoy them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Conditioning and Tiny Personal Trainers

Yesterday, the prime focus of my workout was conditioning - which was completed with a series of intervals on my road bike in a stand in the basement (lousy Winter weather is still keeping me inside - come on Spring!!!)

The second half of my workout was personal trainer led - by my five year old daughter. She had just finished winning an "Olympic" medal in her gymnastics class on Saturday, the Gold no less. She insisted on taking me through the training steps that got her on the podium, and I was more than happy to comply.

I did things called she called "Spidermans," and "circles," "X's" and a wide variety of things that apparently didn't have a name. It lasted about twenty minutes and was actually a lot more intense than I would have expected - I'm not surprised she won the Gold!