Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Workout of the Day:
50 double unders
1 to 10 ladder: pullups and burpees
50 double unders
10 to 1 ladder: pullups and mountain climbers
50 double unders
For the second installment of this series with my friend Frank from Steelfit Strength back in the States, we chose a format that would really test capacity and recovery in the upper body. I also did this outside on a thick piece of fence piping (above), making butterfly kipping impossible and really challenging my grip. It was definitely a tough sequence that tested my limit with arm strength, not to mention overcoming repeated psychological failure on the bar. The entire second pullup ladder I was doing singles. The double unders, burpees, and mountain climbers weren’t major obstacles, but they didn’t offer much of a break for the muscles I needed to be fresh either. My final time was 15:13. My friends across the pond finished as follows:
Ori – 13:13
Frank – 18:54
Erik – 21:07
Graham – 28:32
Props to Ori for smoking us all. I took some video footage, but it didn't turn out so well. the angle cut off the mountain climbers completely and only got the top half of the burpees so I didn't think it would be worth it to edit it together for a full video.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Heading to the beach Sunday morning I had every intention of doing a workout in the water. I had imagined a swim coupled with some sort of sand running and lifting a heavy stone. Unfortunately, Nice is a rock beach and the cloud cover never lifted long enough to make swimming a non-hypothermia situation. Still, the promenade was impressive and it stretched the entire length of the bay. I took an exploratory jog towards the east end where my friend Kasper had told me to look for a set of stairs and war monument to France’s fallen. Sure enough, just as the coastline ended a huge set of stairs emerged. After climbing them and admiring the incredible view, I stumbled upon this incredible waterfall overlooking the bay. To one side there was a low hanging tree perfect for a set of rings… Bingo.
I headed back to the beach where I’d left my friends to grab my bag and get started. The workout was simple, but very challenging. 2 rounds running up the stairs (385 of them), the first carrying my 12 kg bag and the second without, followed by 10 muscle ups, the first with the bag the second without. Maurice got some great footage of me as I reached the top level of the climb and during the muscle ups. Sadly, Eva’s film of the actual climb did not come out, so you’ll have to take my word for the severity of that portion. So beautiful but so tough.
In total the routine took me 12:59 to complete. The best part about this was the muscle ups with the pack. It’s about the same width as my back so it didn’t get in the way at all, just made things heavier. I’ve attached the video link below.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and wandering around the town, which reminded me a lot of south Florida. There were tons of retired people and tourists everywhere, giving it a much different feel than the other places we had been on the trip to that point. I can only imagine how packed it must be in the summer when the majority of the workforce takes their holiday.
The next morning we were up and off before 10:00, trying to hit the road early to lessen the pain of the long drive back to Paris. Along the way we stopped and saw the Chateau de Rochepot, an unbelievable castle nestled in the central French countryside. Before we left I tied up my rope to a nearby tree and did 12 sets of climbs. I was trying to work some foot technique and to be more efficient up the rope to save strength in my arms, so this workout didn’t necesarily take the form of a WOD.
After that it was nothing but asphalt the rest of the way. We made it home just before 10 pm. What a great trip. I really didn’t want to come home.
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Workout of the Day:
Superset the following using a single dumbbell (32 kg), resting as needed between sets but not at all between exercises:
Unilateral bench press 12, 12, 12, 12, 12
Weighted pullup 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Rest 30 minutes
5 x 1 minute sets:
200 meter run
AMRAP handstand pushups
Moderate workload today. I was feeling little to no residual soreness from the early week activity when I got up today, leaving me ready and willing to kill it. The strength sets went well, but my single arm press is significantly stronger than my ability to pull with extra weight, hence the 12-5, 12-4, 12-3, etc. Interesting note here: holding a dumbbell between your feet with legs straight beneath you is tough. I could feel the weight pulling all the way into my obliques and transverse abdominus. This leads me to believe it’s more beneficial and certainly more challenging than weighted pull using a belt.
Although the strength sets were challenging, they were fairly low intensity. Such was not the case during the second half of the workout. The distance and time limitations were short enough to encourage sprinting, therefore the heart rate was jacked up immediately. Muscle fatigue was a biggest factor on the runs, believe it or not. My legs felt great during sets 1 and 2, but terrible after that. Hamstrings, calves, quads. All of it was heavy coming down the back stretch. The handstand pushups dropped from 12 the first set to 9 the second, 8 the third, 4 the fourth, and bounced to 6 on the fifth. My total count was 39, which I don’t think is too bad on this. My speed on the 200’s dropped from :26 to :28 to :31, then held at :33 the last two sets. I loved this interval structure because it was short, sharp, and didn’t allow you to dog it during any portion. 1 minute of rest is enough to pull your tail from between your legs, but not enough to really have you standing tall. And, of course, you can do it anywhere with a wall and some space.
I’ve attached a video below.
Avignon and the road to Nice:
We got up early on Saturday to go explore the Palace of the Pope and the renowned Avignon bridge before hitting the road for Nice. Good thing, too, because the Palace is built more like a medieval fortress and is every bit as large. (For more read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palais_des_Papes). We walked through ancient prayer chambers, 60 meter long dining rooms (above right), frescoed chapels, and beautiful courtyards where cardinals used to cloister. We even saw the papal kitchen (essentially a huge brick room tapering to one giant chimney above). But the staggering thing for me was the number of stairs in the place. NOT wheelchair friendly back in the day. It seemed that between every room there were either steps up or steps down to the point where it felt like the place had about 10 different levels, few of which matched up with any others. To think that those stairs were climbed for over 350 years by the succeeding heads of the Catholic Church, albeit controversially designated at times, was mind blowing.
After a few hours of Papal history we strolled down to the Avignon bridge, famous for its abrupt incompletion halfway across the Rhone River. Apparently, years of flooding and debris kept corroding the pillars, forcing the inhabitants to habitually rebuild the structure with substandard materials. Finally they decided it simply wasn’t worth the effort and abandoned the cause in the late 17th century. (For more read here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avignon_bridge). About halfway across the existing bridge there still remains a chapel built into one of the columns. Mostly a home to pigeons now, this has to be one of the more unique places of worship I have ever seen. It’s strikingly simple and plain, but its location gives it the impression of floating above the water. Very cool.
The bridge also offered plenty of opportunity for a little physical adventure, though the fact that it was a museum left me a little hesitant to do anything too sacrilegious. I did, however, find a doorway over which a stone could be used for close grip pullups, so I did a few sets of those (video below). The bridge itself would make for a really fun bodyweight/swim/climbing routine because of its sheer drop into the river. I imagined a scenario where one would do 50 burpees on the top, jump off the bridge into the water (30 feet or so) and swim to the opposing bank (maybe 600 meters), do 50 burpees, swim back to the bridge, climb the exposed bricks (very easy holds), then finish with 50 burpees. Obviously this would never fly with the citizens or curators of the bridge’s museum, but it was fun to think about.
After lunch, we headed off towards Nice on the French national roads and quickly reached the coast just East of Marseilles. From there we drove along the Mediterranean through Toulons, Saint Tropez, and Cannes before reaching our destination. Wow, what a drive. Very reminiscent of coastal routes in California, just with a much older, less suburban dubdivision feel. We stopped a number of times to soak up the scenery that was, in a word, stunning. Particularly beautiful was Pont de Layette, a random pull-off along the road between towns that featured stairs down to the rocky coast below (above left). There was a small sand beach facing west where a handful of people and their pets were enjoying the sunset, and a beautiful bluff point with a 300 degree view of the mediterranean. We probably spent an hour relaxing here while dusk settled over us. There were trees to climb, tidepools to explore, and endless rocky shoreline to admire. It has to rank as one of the top 5 prettiest places I have ever been.
We arrived in Nice around 8 that night, somewhat reluctantly after our wonderful experience along the coast, and hit the town for some sushi and a few drinks. We didn't stay out too late, instead crashing at the hotel in anticipation of a long Sunday at the beach. While the weather had less than ideal plans in store, I did find an incredible location for a workout thanks to a recommendation from a buddy in Copenhagen. Still putting that together, so stay tuned.
Workout of the Day:
Snatch 3, 2, 1, 1, 1
10 minute AMRAP
20 calorie row
10 OH squat (65 kg)
10 toes to bar (strict)
Was feeling pretty sore still today, both in my lower back from Tuesday’s deadlifts and in my calves from Wednesday’s fireman carries up the stairs (I swear Niels weighs more than 83 kg). But I was feeling excited and ready to get it going, regardless. In fact, I spent probably 10-15 minutes just watching old Olympic weightlifting footage to try and visualize what those guys do. Something I noticed right away was the tempo of their motion. There’s a discernible rhythm that each man approaches the lift, usually unique from that of others but always the same for him. I focused on this today and could feel a difference. My motion felt smoother, I was more relaxed, and the weight felt lighter. Unfortunately, because my back was pretty beat up from earlier in the week I couldn’t push my weights too high. I finished with a top set of 95 kg and just kept working the timing there. Would have loved to see what I could’ve done fresh, was really feeling great about technique.
Afterwards, I loaded the bar with 65 kg (143 #) and prepared for a short, maximum intensity metcon: 20 calories on the ERG, 10 OH squats with the weight, and 10 toes to bar on the gymnastic stretching rack against the wall. I really didn’t know what to expect here. I pulled the first 20 calories at around a 1600 cal/hr pace, did the squats unbroken, and banged out the toes to bar without any hesitation. The 2nd row was down closer to 1500 cal/hr most of the way, the squats still unbroken but now burning in the quads, and the toes to bar took a second set after 7. At this point my heart rate was starting to jack up good, and the temptation was to linger around before getting back on the rower. This is what I heard Chris Spealer call the point of panic for most people. You haven’t reached true failure, but your body is sending up warning signals and your brain starts to get nervous. I fought this urge and continued on without any rest, felt pretty horrible while rowing at 1470 cal/hr but still managed to get the squats unbroken. I broke the toes to bar between 6 and 4, dropping to the ground with 2 minutes to go in the WOD. Again, the rower felt awful. The OH squats felt good til 5, bad from 5-8, and seriously shaky on the last 2. I finished them without dropping though and made it up on the bar for 1 repetition before the clock hit 10.
A few things I learned from this workout. 1st, 10 minutes is too round a number. I’ve been using it as a timeline too often and should vary it much more. When I was approaching 10 minutes my body was giving out. Not sure how well another 2 minutes would have gone keeping the same rotation. 2nd, strict toes to bar continue to be a bear of an exercise. They were the most limiting factor here, even though they appear to be the most harmless. Last, the point of panic is a mental hurdle that you have to expect during metcon workouts. Expect it to be there so when it happens you know how to respond.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
We hit the road Thursday evening around 5pm heading south from Paris towards Orleans. Our original plan had been to stop in Chartres to see the Cathedral there, a building famous for its asymmetrical towers, massive height, and for housing the Sancta Camisa (the tunic Mary wore when giving birth to Christ). Unfortunately, we had to forego this leg of the trip in the interest of time and pushed on towards Orleans without delay. Driving in France is a bit different than driving in the States, mostly because the signs don’t tell you which direction the road is going, only towards which city it’s headed. Also, the highways all require tolls if you want to be on a road with a speed limit over 100 kph. We tried to avoid the toll and take the national roads during this first leg but quickly realized that the national roads hit every town along the way and were poorly marked if marked at all. Needless to say it took us longer than expected to reach our destination.
When we did arrive, however, we were treated to a mid-sized city with full-sized charm. The city center was immaculately clean, with beautiful gray stone buildings extending in all directions. We came across a giant fountain honoring Joan of Arc just in front of city hall, most likely because Orleans was the site where she led the fight against the English during the 100 years war that gained her fame. Towering over all was the gothic monolith of Cathedral Saint Croix (above right). I was thinking we were about to walk up to it, but its proximity to us kept getting distorted by its size—same effect that makes walking the strip in Vegas seem so easy when in fact it is not. When we finally did reach it, the square was literally empty (a far cry from the square at Notre Dame in Paris this time of year). If I hadn’t been so tired from the day of driving I think this location would have been ideal for a bodyweight WOD. As it was, though, we just walked around and enjoyed the view.
In the morning we hit the road early in the hopes of reaching Avignon before dark. According to the map we would be driving through a lot of countryside, so I anticipated getting a workout in somewhere along the way—perhaps utilizing the rope I had packed in the trunk. Unfortunately, during our lunch break in Clermont-Ferrand our car got towed by the shockingly efficient French parking police. Apparently we left the Citroen in a space it ought not to have been and because we had to retrieve it from the local towing agent after paying our fine to the commissariat. 90 euros. Ouch. The bigger issue was the time we lost. This meant that we would not be able to stop on the way to Avignon. While waiting to get the car I climbed around on the side of a highway overpass that featured a strange circular design with little ledges (above left). Not much of a workout, but fun physical activity nonetheless.
We ended up making it to Avignon after dark, but it was probably better that way. The views of a medieval walled city lit up at night are pretty priceless, after all. More about that in the next post.
Workout of the Day
3 minute AMRAP fireman carry upstairs
3 minute rest
3 minute AMRAP reverse bear crawl upstairs
3 minute rest
3 minute AMRAP fireman carry upstairs
I was out touring today with Niels and Sasha down on the Isle Saint Louis, among other places. We found a staircase and did this workout (Sasha filmed while Niels and I alternated carrying each other). The toughest part of this sequence was definitely the reverse crawls. The flight of stairs totaled 40 steps, which is a lot to carry someone on your back, but even more to continually support your own weight and propel your body upwards against gravity. The first set of fireman carries, I finished 5 rounds plus 18 steps. Niels finished 5 exactly. On these, muscle failure was the main culprit. My legs, calves, and back were burning by the end of the 4th round. To continue climbing was an exercise in mental fortitude and physical stamina.
For the reverse crawls I finished 2 rounds plus 7 steps, but was completely dying. Niels did 2 rounds even. The first time up I didn’t even break rhythm. The second, however, I was fighting the entire time. The huge disparity here leads me to believe that some sort of coordination was lost due to fatigue and concentration. Either way, this wiped me out.
The last set of carries I finished 5 rounds before time expired, feeling much the same as I did during the first set. Only this time, my pace was significantly slower and the fatigue set in much more quickly. Carrying people in awkward situations is no easy task, so props to those life savers out there doing this sort of thing every day. I have video footage of this workout that I hope to have access to over the next few days if I can get the appropriate cable for Niels’s camera.
Rest day tomorrow, getting ready for the weekend.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Workout of the Day
Deadlift 3, 2, 1, 1, 1
First, Congratulations to everyone that competed in the European Sectionals in Milan, Stockholm, Iceland, and the UK!!! The workouts and scores looked incredible and the correspondence is consistent in its praise for the organizers and participants. Hearing the stories gets me excited for the Regionals in May.
Today’s workout was short and sweet. I wanted to test my strength off the floor—hadn’t done so since the competition in Copenhagen 6 weeks ago. I felt pretty decent, maybe a little fatigued from the long hours of driving the past few days but overall not bad. I lifted 185 kg and 195 kg for my first two singles and decided to go for 205 kg for my last. Previous attempts at this weight hadn’t even really budged the bar, but today I had it. I ha d it. Then I lost it. A little slip in the grip and that was it. Too bad, but confidence-wise it was a big step up for me.
As for my weekend, unfortunately internet in southern France is no guarantee unless you’re in a McDonald’s and I wasn’t willing to detail the trip by stopping at a series of drive-through windows. However, enough happened that is worth recapping, so I will do that here over the next few days. I’m going to divide the post into multiple parts in the interest of avoiding a long, rambling diatribe about castles, vistas, and beaches that will inevitably grow repetitive. I’ll tell as much as I can about the cities we visited, the things we saw, and where opportunities for workouts presented themselves while including pictures, videos, etc.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Workout of the Day
5 rounds for time:
20 DB sumo deadlifts (32 kg ea)
10 chest to bar pullups
Rest 5 minutes
4 x max repetitions DB bench press (32 kg ea) w/ 60 seconds rest
Today’s workout was great! Even in a massively over-crowded Cite gym (smelling like hell to make matters worse) Niels, Eva, and I were able to get a really good session in. The DB sumo deadlifts were a nice deviation from standard deadlifting styles. By pinning the two dumbbells against one another it was possible to get full depth and full extension while keeping good body posture and tilt. 32 kg are the heaviest dumbbells I have access to, but I think that was actually a perfect weight. I’d say do it with 2 pood kettlebells, but I don’t think the depth would be low enough so stick with the DBs.
The first set of 20 felt pretty good. My ass and hamstrings let me know they were there, but I managed to get them out unbroken. The chest to bars offered little trouble as well, so I was feeling pretty confident. The second set I had to break at 14 because now my ass and hamstrings were doing more yelling than telling. And the pullups got tougher as well because my grip was now starting to tire. Coming into the 3rd set the clock was just past 3 minutes of total time elapsed. Here, the grip and the legs were big factors, as they would be the rest of the way. It took me 3 sets to get the 20 repetitions and I could really feel my lower back starting to ache—a testament to high repetition deadlifting for the first time in a while. Also, my arms were failing to cooperate past 3-4 pullups at this point. By the end of the 3rd round, 5:30 had passed; by the end of the 4th, 8:30. The last round I got a burst of strength on the deadlifts and got through them in 3 pretty quick sets. I also decided to do one pullup at a time instead of trying to string them together and blowing up my already exploded arms. This worked really well. I definitely did the 10 c2b’s faster than set 4, and maybe even faster than set 3. My final time was 11:23.
Niels is really looking stronger as well. He finished in 13:20 with 20 kg dumbbells and was much improved on the pullups. It would be fun to see what he could do if he worked out more than twice per week…
We rested no more than 5-6 minutes, then hit the bench. This was meant to be an exhaustion exercise tacked onto the end of the routine to see how tertiary muscle groups would respond under fatigue. My totals for the 4 max rep sets were: 20, 11, 8, and 9. The rise on this last set was because I got caught explaining an exercise to another patron of the gym and incidentally received an extra minute of rest.
Overall, I really enjoyed this program. The dumbbell deadlifts were especially fun, and all the exercises challenged parts of my fitness that could not be considered strengths.
Tomorrow I’m embarking on a 4 day roadtrip through southern France with a few of my classmates. Hoping to find some cool spots along the way, in addition to the places in Nice my friend Kasper has already recommended. Not sure what the internet situation will be at the hotels, but I will try to post pictures/videos/etc. when I can.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Workout of the Day:
Establish a 1RM Clean and Jerk
The Air Force WOD:
20 thruster (45 kg/99# for all)
20 sumo deadlift high pull
20 push jerk
20 oh squat
20 front squat
4 burpees at the top of every minute
Felt fresh and ready to get after it today. Walking over I couldn’t decide whether to do the heavy clean and jerks and the Air Force WOD, or just do the latter. I had seen some results from a sectional competition back in the States and wanted to see how I would fare. I decided that it was more important to get the heavy Olympic work in while I had the chance and just deal with the fatigue during the metcon. Never fear, I paid my pound of flesh for this hubris.
The cleans went really well. I got 125 kg again without too much trouble, and I had 130 kg racked comfortably moving upwards. I hit a sticking point though and didn’t have the balls to push through it, as the video will indicate. Now when I watch it I really hate myself for not finding a way to get it up. Oh well.
I didn’t take much time between the cleans and the metcon. I wanted to get it over and done with. In retrospect, a 10-20 minute break would’ve been nice. My goal going in was to get through the routine in 4 minutes, meaning I would have to average about 1 ¼ rounds per minute. At the end of the first minute I was on track, having finished 20 thrusters and 5 sumo high pulls. The second minute was even better, as I had finished the remaining high pulls and 8 push jerks. Things were right on track. At the 3 minute mark I had slowed a bit, finishing the push jerks but only getting to 8 oh squats. At this point, I knew 4 minutes wasn’t happening but I still felt okay for something close to it. The 4th minute was where I lost things. My shoulders died with 2 oh squats and 10 seconds left before the changeover. I literally couldn’t keep the bar locked out. This meant I had to go to burpees and then do 2 oh squats before moving to the front squats. Because of this delay and having to switch bar positions, I was only able to get to 12 front squats before the 5th minute expired. I finished in 5:42 when it was all said and done.
The wave of exhaustion I felt afterwards was total body—somewhat reminiscent of a workout like Fran. I completely underestimated the toll this would take on me, and got what was coming as a result. I think I will try this one again sometime without the heavy stuff before and see how I do.
That said, it did the job. If there was one exercise that would pre-fatigue the muscles needed to perform this WOD it's clean and jerk. I had to fight through failure and pain the same way I will have to in May if I want to qualify from what will be a very strong field. Workouts like this are what I need more than anything, I think, and they’re worth their weight in motivation.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Not my best day on the menu board…
9:30 am: 4 hardboiled eggs and a banana
1:00 pm: Greek marinated chicken with pan-fried potatoes, lettuce, tomatoes, and yogurt sauce (purchased in a local Parisian food haunt—got stuck out doing things and needed to eat)
5:00 pm: 2 apples and a sizeable block of Dutch cheese
8:00 pm: Grilled chicken breast, ¼ head purple cabbage, ¼ head broccoli, 1 onion, 1 tomato, 1 carrot, handful spinach leaves, half jar of olive/tomato bruschetta
8:30 pm: 1 ridiculously chocolate brownie to share in the birthday celebration of a neighbor
12:00 am (currently): Leftover turkey from last night, with carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, and curry sauce
Certainly a few non-ideal items on this list, but I felt compelled to tell the truth because it highlights reality. Every day is not perfect and you have to own up to it.
Reading back over things, I didn’t eat enough either. True, I didn’t train today, but I still don’t think this is enough calories for the speed at which my metabolism tends to push things through my body. Part of this limited consumption is due to an empty refrigerator, but most of it is my lazy ass not waking up until 9:15 in the morning and having to rush out the door to be at a meeting by 10:30. My breakfasts are typically much heftier, and the more hours you're awake the more opportunities you have to eat. But, as they say, c’est la vie. On to tomorrow.
Sunday, March 14, 2010
This post is in response to numerous requests for me to elaborate on what I eat daily. It is not meant to be a scientific explanation or argument for or against any particular diet, nutrition plan, or philosophy (I eat a paleo diet with the exception of limited amounts of cheese and alcohol—no strong reason for these exceptions other than I enjoy them too much to cut them out completely). My knowledge in this area is rudimentary and essentialist, leaving me far from an expert in nutritional science, so I will leave the justifications to those with better pedigrees. I try to know as much as I can in order to make smart choices without getting paralyzed by the minutia inherently common among issues that deal on the molecular level. Though I know chemistry is vitally important to understanding processes of digestion, energy transfer, and, really, all things biological, I personally find it far too boring to obsess over. Much more useful is a general chemical understanding, buttressed by the practical basics that come from trial and error and the lessons of ongoing experience. This is more in line with the theme of this post. It is simply an expose of the current state of my personal nutritional experiment.
In an effort to avoid simply regurgitating tips that have proliferated all over the internet (eating frequently, avoiding grains, dairy, saturated fats, etc.), I tried to concentrate my efforts strictly on things I think are either largely neglected, overlooked entirely, or are personal discoveries that have helped me get what I need from my meals. I’ve also tried to distill these ideas into as simple a form as possible, therefore making them easier to digest (pun?) and apply. After some careful thought, I’ve come up with a series of thoughts that govern what I do at mealtime. This can be seen as a brief menu of practical guidelines for those, like me, who are looking to eat better, but often find it too difficult, complicated, or inconvenient to do so.
1. Know what you need
While, biologically, the same dietary principles apply to everyone, they do not apply in equal proportions. This is, without a doubt, the most common and simplest mistake people make when embarking on any diet/nutrition plan. 2 points here. First, personal goals will necessarily affect your approach. A woman looking to lose 20 lbs will eat differently from a woman looking to gain 5; this has to be clear. By the same token, if your goal is to gain weight, you cannot eat like a bird and expect to get stronger. My good friend and animal Jim Bathurst of Beastskills.com wrote recently that he "accidentally ingest 2 eggs every time he walks past the refrigerator." This has to be your attitude if you're trying to get bigger. Second, you have to know your energy demands to know what to eat. If I’m burning 4000 calories a day but only taking in 2500, chances are I won’t be performing at my peak. If you’re burning 1500 and taking in 2000, you’re not going to lose weight… it’s a math equation. It seems that most people these days know the right foods to eat, but not how to use that knowledge to suit their individual needs. Bridging this gap is vital.
2) Mix your food
Eating Paleo approved foods gets pretty boring. The best way I’ve found to deal with this is to prepare meals that are huge jumbles of food, i.e. salads, stir fries, and scrambles. I like this method particularly because it allows me to get more nutrients in per bite. If variety is important in training, it’s doubly so when it comes to nutrition, if for no other reason than keeping you sane. If I had to eat grilled chicken breasts every day in order to be fit, I think I’d shoot myself. Or go to straight McDonalds. I’ve found that mixing food allows me to incorporate more types of vegetables, fruits, and meats in every meal, keeping them interesting and tasting better.
3. Go for color
I know I’ve read it somewhere, but I can’t remember where: Eat every color and you eat healthy. When deciding what produce to buy at the market, this is my anchoring principle. Purple cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, green cauliflower, yams, spinach, avocado, bell peppers, bananas, oranges, apples, blueberries… Not exactly the skittles version of tasting the rainbow, but it will do. Phyto-nutrients? Anti-oxidants? Vitamins and minerals? They’re all in there.
4. Cook with fruit and nuts
Most people just eat fruit and nuts as snacks between meals, but they’re really useful in spicing up otherwise bland concoctions. A personal favorite is slicing apples and throwing them in with cabbage, carrots, broccoli, and whatever else is in the frying pan. The natural sugars sweeten everything and help hold the meal together. Another great one is shredded coconut. I put this on everything from eggs to curry. It has good fats from the oil and tons of calories that I find hard to come by. Almonds, cashews and walnuts are great with salads, but in almost any stir fry as well. Starting to use the foods you’re accustomed to in different ways is a great way to eat better and to keep things interesting.
5. It’s all about the sauce
The key ingredient for any meal I cook is the sauce. It’s easy to throw away an otherwise healthy meal on a salad dressing full of trans-fats and disgusting, processed garbage. Equally easy is to find dressings that are completely healthy and make the meal waaaay better than it would be without them. Dry food is hard to choke down, let’s be honest. A few of my favorites: Pesto-surprisingly good with almost any combination of vegetables; Olive Bruschetta-such a strong flavor that you don’t need much to change the complexion of the meal; Salsa-this one is obvious for eggs, just get the natural stuff without added sugar; Hummus-actually not sure where this fits into the paradigm, but it’s cheap, full of good oils, and tastes great; Red Pepper puree-can’t begin to describe how good this is; Balsamic Vinegar-obvious for salads, but also good with just about anything; Curry-check the labels, but usually it’s not too bad.
To this point in the process, these are the guidelines I find the most helpful. I manage to cook 3 times a day consistently, with snacks and shakes sprinkled intermittently between and after workouts. Aside from the large amount of dish soap I go through, it’s really not that big of a hassle. Tupperware is amazing, use it people. No real excuse not to cook your meals unless you’re on the road for days at a time.
I will follow this up with a post detailing exactly what I eat during the day tomorrow. I'm always looking to learn, so if anyone has tricks to add please share.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Workout of the Day:
10 minute AMRAP:
1 x BW Snatch
Rest 10 minutes
10 minute AMRAP:
1 x 2BW Back Squat
Even after a full day of rest and a ton of sleep, I was sore as hell today. My quads were tender with every downhill step, and my chest was still tight from the pushups Tuesday night. It actually took quite a bit of prodding to convince myself that getting to the gym was a good idea. But it happened, and it was a good idea.
I warmed up with some light snatches, working on timing and extension, and felt pretty decent. I decided to put the weight at 85 kg, slightly over my bodyweight of 83 kg, because I didn’t want to deal with 1 ¼ kg plates. Turned out, it didn’t matter much. The weight felt light. I finished 9 full rounds, plus the 10th snatch. I took my time between the pullups and snatches, making sure I was ready, prepared, and not going to miss. Thankfully I never did. And I never had to catch in a squat, impressing myself with the strength of my pulls and saving my legs for the heavy squatting ahead. I might have been able to get a few more rounds if I had been bolder with the snatches early on, but timidity got the better of me and I decided not to rush.
The 10 minutes of rest was really 10 minutes of squatting warm ups. I mostly did doubles and singles, trying to prepare my body for the shock of a 165 kg weight. When it came time to lift it, things felt heavy. I got the first rep up, but not without a fight. This had me worried coming back from the dips. I took my time, went through the same routine, and felt about the same on the second rep as on the first. This pattern repeated itself through 9 full rounds. I finished my 90th dip just seconds before the clock rolled over to 10. I was ecstatic with this result. Being able to consistently get under the bar with less than a minute rest and lift twice my bodyweight with full depth felt incredible. Every repetition was a fight, but I got them done every time. And all that soreness is flushed out, naturally. Perhaps I’ll have some new pain to deal with tomorrow, but my program is pretty light either way.
Feeling strong. Bring on the weekend.
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Workout of the Day:
In the AM…
2 hours pickup basketball
In the PM…
15 minutes EDD’s
Consecutive Tabata rounds of:
DB walking lunge
BW Squat jumps
3 sets of hanging L-sits for time
Things were a bit stiff today, especially across my chest and shoulders. My core was not nearly as sore as it was last week after the longer distance, slower paced sandbag run, so I think constantly supporting the weight is the key to really taxing that area. Still, going for speed last night was a good variation on the exercise.
One of the girls in my apartment building picked up a basketball earlier this week and organized a game at the park across the street. We were between 6-8 people, depending at what point during the 2 hours you choose to look at, and we were mixed between girls and guys fairly evenly. This was not high level basketball, but it was fast-paced and of high enough quality to be very enjoyable. It reminded me of two things: I love warm weather, and I miss playing sports. It felt great to move without a plan, to react rather than pre-designate. Jumping, sprinting, and changing direction are key elements in developing agility, coordination, and balance, and they’re best utilized as fluid parts of games like basketball, tennis, or football. We played for 2 hours, almost without a break, and we certainly felt it afterwards. At least 4 that I know of (myself included) went home and crashed for 1-2 hour naps. Hopefully with the weather starting to turn I can get out and do this more often.
In the evening I was back at the Cite gym with Niels and Eva (new addition) to do some Tabata interval work. For the lunges, I used 32 kg dumbbells—heavy. I was able to tally 88 total steps during the 4 minutes, and was surprised to note that my forearms and traps were feeling things almost as much as my legs. Going to the squat jumps next was a little brutal, but things shook out by the second set. I tried to get full depth, the same as I would need for a clean or snatch, and clear at least 10 inches with each jump. I finished with 105 repetitions here, certainly the most challenging cardiovascularly. I did the situps with butterflied knees to try and disengage the hip flexors. This makes it much harder to string repetitions together, but much more effective at challenging the rectus abdominus. I got 78 repetitions, falling just short of 10 per round.
Afterwards, we attached ourselves to pullup bars and did max time hangs. I held an L-sit for as long as I could, then bent the knees for the remainder. The first set I kept the L for just over 30 seconds, the second set just under 30 seconds, and the third barely 20 seconds. Each set, however, I was able to keep myself on the bar for at least 60 seconds of total time. Not terribly impressive, but not bad either.
Resting tomorrow, and I need it. Really exhausted from these past few days. Going to a matinee to re-watch the Hurt Locker. Saw it back in DC last summer and loved it. Now that the whole world is on board, figured it’s time to check it out again and contribute to its growing popularity.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Workout of the Day:
With a partner, do 20 minutes AMRAP:
200 meter sandbag run (35 kg)
While one partner is running, the other is doing pushups. Any gap between finishing pushups and starting the run is your rest.
After last night’s less than stellar performance and a long day spent in the classroom today, getting outside for a night session was just what the doctor ordered. Niels was back in town and rearing to go, so we grabbed the sandbag and headed to the back lawn of the Cite.
Conveniently, the back pad measured just slightly over 100 meters in distance. It was freezing outside, so keeping air in our lungs was tough the whole way through, but it definitely felt better to be working than standing around. I started with the run and was BOOKING it. Got down and back in :45; perhaps a little ambitious, but the bag felt light. The second set I went almost as fast, but was nearing collapse by the 200th meter. Pretty funny how quickly you gas yourself when up around 100% effort. The remaining 17:00 were a full body fight the whole way. My shoulders and arms were dead tired from supporting the weight and doing the pushups in between, and my stomach was really fatigued from the weighted running. This last part never ceases to amaze me in its effectiveness.
When the clock rolled the last digit over, I had just dropped the bag after my 10th run. I had done 9 sets of pushups, bringing my totals to 2000 meters and 225 pushups. Niels (doing sets of 15 rather than 25) finished 1800 meters and 150 pushups. Between us, that’s 3800 meters with 35 kg and 375 pushups in 20 minutes. Not bad.
I felt the difference in motivation having Niels here today. Sometimes, its nice not to have to come up with the motivation all on your own. I’m feeling redeemed after yesterday, looking forward to tomorrow.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Workout of the Day:
This workout is a modified version of a workout I got from my friends at Evolve Your Fitness
1000 meter row, max pullups
rest 2 minutes
750 meter row, max pullups
500 meter row, max pullups
250 meter row, max pullups
You may not rest between rowing and pullups, and you must rest exactly the interval prescribed between rounds. Each pullup is worth -2 seconds from your total row time.
Graham, Frank, and Eric (pictured above) did this WOD last Monday for their half of the challenge, and scored 7:48, 7:49, and 8:12, respectively (24, 34, and 21 raw pullup totals).
This workout is cool because it offers a strategic challenge as well as a physical one. Going balls out would obviously leave no strength for the pullups, but laying back too much would kill the overall rowing time. Because each pullup is worth 2 seconds, having the strength to do them immediately after the row seems worth sacrificing a few seconds on the ERG. The problem with this is that its hard to know the right blend of effort and conservation.
I did my first 1000 meters in 3:31, holding a 1:45 split for the duration. Honestly, this was too slow. I got off the ERG barely out of breath. The pullups still proved challenging though, but more because I’m a mental midget than because my body gave out. I was only able to get 21 before dropping, and, I’d love to blame this on the slick, chrome plated bar at the Cite gym, but that would give undue credit to my resolve. I’ll come back to this later.
Because the distances were decreasing, I had planned to drop my split a little each round, especially after the first round felt so easy. A hundred meters into the 750 meter round, I realized this was not going to happen. Feeling the impending creep of lactic acid overload, I backed my pace off to around 1:47, finishing the distance in 2:43. Jumping up on the pullup bar this time actually felt more secure than the first round, but I still only managed 20 pullups. It was like I was dropping from the bar out of habit, rather than out of sheer exhaustion, as I should have been.
Walking back to the rower between sets 2 and 3, I was definitely out of breath. But by the end of the 1:30 rest period, that had subsided and I felt ready to go. This side of things I really cannot complain about—my recovery was excellent. Here I had a bit of a mental lapse. I started rowing around a 1:50, and it took me until the 300 meter mark to realize that I shouldn’t be conserving so much. I started pulling like hell and finished the leg in 1:46. That burst cost me on the pullups, as I only tallied 14.
With only 1 minute break before the last set, I barely had time to reset the rower for the new distance before it was time to start moving. Here I didn’t hold much back—most of the distance was spent in the 1:30’s. The final time was 50 seconds even and my pullups were a pathetic 13. In total, this put my time elapsed at 8:50 with 68 total repetitions. At 2 seconds per pullup, that means 2:16 of total subtraction, putting my final time/score at 6:34.
I am not happy with this. More directly, I attacked this workout like a soft, no heart, wet-noodled weakling. I didn’t give enough on rows 1 or 3, and, with the exception of the 3rd set, I left repetitions on the bar with the pullups. The only thing I can think of to explain this is that I rarely do them for maximum repetitions and I didn’t know how to approach it mentally. If that is the case, it’s an easy fix.
Big thanks to Frank from Steelfit for organizing this inaugural WOD. Looking forward to the next one.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The past seven days has to rank as one of my best training weeks in a long while, despite unexpected gym closures on Monday and Wednesday night. At first, this conclusion was more of a gut feeling, like “I really feel like I hit on all cylinders this week.” Then, as I looked back, I realized my week had inadvertently adhered to a few essential programming principles of variation better than in weeks past, giving it a more productive and enjoyable feel. Discovering this fact made me think it was time to revisit those principles in the hopes of building some programming momentum as I head towards the European Regionals in May. This list isn't revolutionary (in fact I think I wrote a post about most of it last fall), but I need to reinforce them for myself, so you are subjected to it as well. Sorry. Hopefully you all can think of some things that I didn't and improve upon these basics.
Principle 1: Vary movement patterns and joints.
Every functional movement involves the shoulder, hip, or a combination of the two. (I sincerely hope nobody is still doing single joint exercises, apart from rehab. If you are, check yourself). Even when different muscle groups are doing the lion’s share of the labor, one of these two joints is inevitably activated in some capacity (think dips and pullups--different muscles, same joint chain). It is therefore essential to be cogniscent of over-working one type of motion or one set of joints. For example, cleans, snatches, and deadlifts all require approximately the same type of hip extension in moving the weight from the ground to each of their respective finishing positions (full depth Olympics also involve a squatting component, so think of that example as well). For the majority of people, doing these exercises on three consecutive days is completely unnecessary and will lead to over-training these movement patterns. The same can be said for doing thrusters, back squats, and pistols on consecutive days. Don't do it.
Even more problematic is over-using your shoulders. Pullups, handstands, OH squats, push jerks, bench press; these all heavily engage and tax the shoulder joint. Sometimes it’s hard to think outside the “push/pull” box that bodybuilders tend to live in, but the fact is, regardless if you’re pulling the weight towards you or pushing it away, your shoulder joint is where the torque is. Programming days that don’t require it to do either will pay off big time in recovery time and injury prevention. Example: The two weeks before I tweaked my shoulder, every day involved some form of active engagement of the shoulder joint. I laid off it a few days, then Monday I did a sandbag run that only required my shoulders to secure the weight rather than press or pull it. Tuesday I tied a PR on Clean and Jerk and Thursday I PR’d my strict press by 5 kg. Definitely a coincidence…
Principle 2: Vary energy pathways.
If you want to be good at everything, you have to do everything. Monday’s sandbag run tested stamina and core stability; Tuesday’s C&J’s required strength and power; Wednesday’s climbing focused on upper body strength and body control; Friday was strength (strict press singles) and work capacity (two metcons: a heavy couplet early and a light triplet late); Saturday was a 30 minute AMRAP testing guts and long range endurance. This type of balance is a big reason why I felt so good about my week. I tested myself in just about every way. Important note: don't test all of these every day. I read a lot of programs that try to do heavy strength followed by a metcon in every session. News flash: this is not varied. It also means you will not spend enough time on the heavy stuff and that your body will never be fresh for the metcon. I'm not saying you shouldn't do heavy strength sets and metcons in the same day. You should. But taxing every energy pathway every day is a burnout waiting to happen, and you won't tap your potential in any discipline. Sometimes less is more.
Principle 3: Vary intensities.
Some people may balk at this, so let me explain. Every session should be met with the same level of concentration, focus, and determination. But every session should not see you on the floor in a puddle of your own sweat and vomit. Many mistake a post-workout MASH unit of bodies scattered across the gym as proof of the WOD’s intensity. Undeniably, those workouts are intense, and you have to do them. But so are technical snatches, max height box jumps, and handstand holds, and you have to do those too. If you push your body to the brink of collapse every day you train, you will eventually get what you ask for. I wrote a post about Wednesday’s climbing excursion, describing it as such a nice deviation from the norm. This is precisely because it required a different kind of intensity than a 2K row, a 21, 15, 9, or a max effort back squat. I was just as focused and determined to overcome the challenge, but I walked away with gas in the tank. I am completely convinced that I had the mental and physical energy to tackle Friday’s enormous workload in large part because of Wednesday’s more technical focus.
Principle 4: Vary environments (see picture).
These means location and instruments. Getting out is something I am forced to do because of my circumstances, but it’s something everyone should do at least once during a given training week to disassociate “fitness” from any particular locale or any particular instrument. Getting outside your gym stimulates creativity, forces interaction with nature, and is genuinely rejuvenating. Using bags, hammers, blocks, or ropes instead of barbells and kettlebells challenges your strength, control, and concentration in ways impossible to explain. Not to mention, they’re much less boring. Being strong in every situation means testing yourself in every environment with every tool. And there are plenty in supply. This past week, I trained in 5 different “gyms,” using at least 6 different types of apparatus, while still managing to adhere to principles 1-3. I think this could be THE biggest reason why this week felt so much better than so many others.
That's all I got for now. I’m writing next week’s program now with an eye towards building an even better lineup… If anybody knows other principles of variation I’ve overlooked, please share.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Workout of the Day:
30 minute AMRAP:
w/ 5 kilogram pack do
50 meter bear crawl uphill
50 meter bear crawl downhill
400 meter hill/stair run
This took place at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont in Northeast Paris. As I may have described before in an earlier post, it’s one of the prettiest parks I’ve ever been to. It is also full of hills, stairs, bridges, and paths with which one can get very creative.
After the heavy strength emphasis of yesterday’s workouts, today had to be an endurance effort. 30 minutes of constant motion with just more than bodyweight definitely fit the bill. The 50 meter hill I used for the crawling was steep, much steeper than the video makes it seem. Heading uphill: not too much of a challenge. Mostly felt it in my ass and hamstrings (deadlifts yesterday certainly a factor). Heading downhill, however, was much more difficult. Because of the degree of slope, hand placement was touchy. I had to find knobs of grass that I could balance my weight on as I reached forward for the next handhold, otherwise my palms would just slip from under me and the crawl would turn more into a slide. The end result was that the downhill crawling was slow going, and exhausting. Especially in my stomach and hips, even more so than a downstairs crawl.
Coming off the hill and going straight into the run was not particularly fun. The first 60 meters or so was flat, but then the path turned up a steep set of stairs that wound its way past the park’s waterfall and up on to the upper crest of the bluff. This measured approximately 200 meters of distance and 100 feet of elevation. Once on top, there was another 60 meters or so of flat ground as I crossed the neo-Roman single arch bridge the park is famous for, then another 80 meters of slope to the top shelf where the temple sits overlooking the city.
Each set felt equally bad, though it was taking me progressively longer to complete them. I was able to finish 4 full rounds, plus a 5th set of the bear crawl circuit in 30 minutes. If I was a true warrior, I would have done the 5th run just for the hell of it. Maybe next time. Beth got some great footage that I’m hoping to edit together tomorrow. The place itself is so beautiful, even my amateur skills shouldn’t be able to ruin it.
Rest day tomorrow, then “Pullups across the Pond” with Frank Passanante from Steelfit on Monday. He’s set the bar high, so it’s my challenge to measure up.
Workout of the Day:
In the morning…
Strict Press 3, 3, 3, 3, 1, 1
Trans-Continental Workout #6 with Josh Courage:
10 to 1 Deadlift (145 kg) and Muscle Up
In the evening…
3 rounds for time at the Louvre:
20 meters handstand walk
20 meters walking lunge
100 double under
BIG day today. Library early, museum late… lots of training in between. Suffice it to say that I am beat and ready to sleep until Sunday.
Things began with the 6th installment of the trans-continental workouts I’ve been doing with my boy Josh back in DC, consisting of a decreasing pyramid from 10 to 1 of 145 kg (319#) deadlifts and muscle ups. Before embarking on this adventure, however, I did some overhead pressing to test where my strength was at.
It’s up! My sets of 3 were: 60 kg, 65 kg, 70 kg, 75 kg. After getting 3 at 75 kg I was feeling great about where things stood. My 1RM coming in was 80 kg, so I decided to do a few extra sets to see if I could beat it. I finished at 85 kg (187#) on the last set! This is a huge jump for me, and, honestly, since overhead pressing has been a weakness for a long time, I was thrilled.
Therefore, I had all kinds of energy heading into the challenge a few minutes later. Unfortunately, there were a few limitations imposed by my gym. Namely, I had to tie my rings up on a wall mounted pullup bar that only extended a foot or so from the wall. This meant that I could get no real swing for my kip. All the hip and knee drive had to come from a dead hang position, and I couldn’t string any of them together back to back. This certainly made the workout harder than it otherwise would have been, but it made the muscle ups more of a strength move than a technical one, which isn’t so bad if you're trying to get strong.
The first 10 deadlifts were smooth (the weight didn’t feel heavy—happy about that), and I knocked the 10 muscle ups out in singles without any trouble. The set of 9 deadlifts felt considerably heavier, and the muscle ups took far longer. This trend would continue as my grip began to tire, my back began to weaken, and the class of students began to pay more attention to my banging around the gym. Things really started grinding from set 8 to set 5, but picked back up for the last 4, and I stopped the clock at 24:00 exactly. I think that I could have finished under 20 with a standard set of rings without question, so that would be the number to shoot for next time I do this. Unfortunately, I don’t have video footage on this WOD, but hopefully Josh does for his part. Courage Performance Blog
Later in the evening I joined my good friend Beth from DC over at the Louvre for our version of night at the museum. I’ve been wanting to do a workout here for awhile, and tonight was perfect. Things didn’t quite measure up to the standard I had hoped for with the handstand walking (turns out I'm still no gymnast), but the location was so unreal it didn't matter. The courtyard was lit, the pyramid was gleaming, the air was nice, and there were people out to enjoy it all. If you haven’t been to the Louvre at night, make it a priority.
I went through the 1st round pretty well, only falling twice on the handstands during 20 meters and making it through the double unders in 2 sets. The second round was a bit worse, as it probably took me twice as long to walk the 20 meters on my hands. But the third round was where things really fell apart. I came into it at 8:30; I came out of it at 14:14. I just had no balance left. My core was unsteady, my shoulders were shot, and I didn’t have the concentration to pull my shit together.
Still, I loved the workout—this kind of thing, you can literally do anywhere. Big thanks to Beth for filming, doing a workout of her own after I finished, and then walking around the museum with me until closing time (picture above is from Napoleon III's grand salon). All in all, an incredible night.
The video of the handstand WOD is pending upload on youtube and should be ready tomorrow.