Sunday, May 26, 2013
So I don't consider myself a gym snob at all.....au contraire, I have the greatest respect for people of all abilities in the gym. Anyone that's out there working out hard is a winner in my book.
Let's just say I'm somewhat conservative in my views on what is appropriate in the gym. If I ever give a sideways glance, it's to the posturing he-man who does bicep curls in the squat rack, or to the gaggle of high school kids who talk and text while occupying the bench press....and for the longest time, those legions of Crossfitters who do weird things like medicine ball throws and kettlebell swings in the weight room.
But for some inexplicable reason, when my 20-something front office assistant asked me if I'd like to try a Crossfit workout with him last Thursday (he's been bugging me about this for months), I blurted out a quick "Sure!"
Don't ask me why I said yes; I still don't know. I told him that I'd hang with any exercise they threw my way except for plyometrics....I don't jump.
So bright and early Thursday AM we go into this ratty old warehouse they call "The Box" and I'm the oldest dude there by about 25 years....all good, I just looked around and sized everybody up ready to kick some a$$!
The Workout of the Day (The "WOD") was Tabatas.....hi-intensity drills of 20 sec all out effort, followed by 10 sec rest....repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes, then on to the next exercise.
The exercises were;
- Kettlebell Swings - choose your own weight
- Russian Twists with a medicine ball
- Push-ups, except you release your hands at the bottom (weirdos!)
- Platform Jump-ups (I did step-ups....I'm pretty strict on doing only low impact stuff)
We were to do 4 minute Tabata's on each of these, then end with a Plank Challenge....we all gather around in a circle and hold a plank until there's just one person left holding it!
So as luck would have it, I started out with the Kettlebell swings. I have never done Kettlebell swings. I have always thought those who do Kettlebell swings were a bunch of fad-following fitness weirdos. I grabbed a 35 lb Kettlebell ("Ooohh, you grabbed a Pood for your first Kettlebell swing! Good luck!" exclaimed the chippy little 19-year old college girl to my right.....I just smiled and nodded like I knew what she was talking about)
I've done Tabata intervals before on a number of exercises....spin bike, rowing machines, overhead presses. Done right, you're supposed to go all out (a 9 to 10 on your Rate of Perceived Exertion - RPE). I went hard, but since this was my first time doing it, I focused on form, but wasn't quite sure what good form looked like. I noticed some folks hefting the kettlebell over their heads, some only chest high, some were squatting down way low, others were just bending at the waist thrusting the kettlebell far behind them, so I just did my own thing working up a good sweat.
And man did I work up a good sweat! This was hard work....I liked it!
Round and round we went, hitting each of the stations. Like any group event, once I'm in it, I'm all in. I cheer folks on, I get loud, I let out Victory yells when the strain kicks in.....I'm a motivator at heart!
Then we formed up in a circle for the plank challenge. I heard a couple of groans all around me. That's when I knew I had them....planks are my secret weapon.....I get in to my Ninja Zone and I can go on forever.
20-something instructor gal yells out "You should be able to hold this for a minute, if you can do 1 minute 15, then you're in good shape!" More groans.
Give me a freaking break! I'll go 2 minutes before I even start wondering about the time!
So there's 12 of us in the circle....I hear yelps of pain on either side of me....a few grunts then bodies crashing hard on the floor.
"90 seconds, how are we doing?" I hear from instructor gal. I look up....there's 4 of us left!
I smile and go back into Ninja mode. At 2 minutes I hear a loud "AARRRRGGHH" in front of me....3 of us left. Then, not 5 seconds later, I hear a "WHUMP" and another falls to the ground. Only two of us left now
At 2 minutes 10 sec, it's just me and 20-something instructor gal. My front office assistant looks over at me sheepishly, "Jeez boss you think you can hold out with your bum leg?"
"F* you dude, I've got paper clips and rubber bands holding this old body of mine together, but I'm thinking I've got 3 minutes in me.....how about you instructor girl, can you make it to 3?"
She's sweating big time, but gives me a nod
"OK, then let's go, hold on!" I let out a victory cry, "let's hold on for 3...somebody give us a countdown every 5 seconds!"
I let out my Braveheart yell and tell her to do the same.....she does and we alternate Belly Yells every few seconds till we get the 3 minute call.....then we both collapse to the ground.
Not too bad.....but I still think they're a bunch of weirdos....nonetheless, I felt good and I'm intrigued
Friday night I start researching Kettlebell Swings.....it figures they were invented in Soviet Russia.....I wonder if my Stasi trainer guy has a few stuffed in the back of his closet, along with a hammer and a sickle!
Done right, they appear to be pretty darn good ways to develop power through the hips & glutes, and can be a pretty effective aerobic workout. I looked up a couple of respectable videos on Youtube to get the form right and learned that the purpose is to drive with your hips, not to lift with arms & shoulders....interesting.
So I worked them in to my routine today. I did some intervals on the bike to get warmed up, then grabbed a 35 lb "Pood", set the timer on my workout app and did 10 sets of 30 second intervals. (Of course, I did these in the Aerobic Room and not in the Weight Room like those people who annoy me so much do!)
WOW! 3 hours later, I am still feeling it! I think these have some promise! It's a whole different kind of workout, using weights for speed and power, plus I felt an incredible stretch in my hamstrings the more I did....and I definitely need more stretching.
Here's a link to how it's supposed to be done:
I finished up with 6 rounds of Farmer's Carries using 55 lb dumbells! These are also one of my favorites. In the last 2 months of doing these, I can tell my grip and forearm strength has improved dramatically!
So the moral is, regardless of how weird you might think someone or something is in the workout world, it's always worth it to try something new.....you might just find something you actually enjoy!
Have a great night Spark friends!
Sunday, May 19, 2013
Well my whirl wind house-hunting trip to Virginia is over. I think I covered over 1000 miles in 4 days criss-crossing the area looking for something decent. I found us a real nice house in a great neighborhood....and with enough spare room in the basement where I just might be able to build me a home gym.....it'll depend on a bunch of different factors when we get there....good gyms in the community, near work, etc. For now, it's still a possibility!
We really like that part of the country (Northern VA, near DC). My brother lives up there and so it'll be nice to be near him for a while. He just turned 50 and he's got 2 girls ages 7 and 3....so his life is all about Disney princess movies, iCarly, and Scooby Doo!
I also had a chance to see some other friends that worked there....and that's what bummed me out.
I planned a dinner with a a good colleague of mine, a guy I've worked with on and off in different parts of our business these past 25 years. We started out together and our career paths have intersected many times. He was in DC on business, so we made arrangements to meet and grab some chow. I had already been driving like crazy, so I told him I'd pick him up at his hotel. He said great, I'll be waiting for you out front.
I braved the late afternoon DC traffic and pulled up by his hotel right at 6:00 o'clock on the dot, looked around, but couldn't spot him. Then I hear someone call my name, turn around...and there's a fat old guy walking towards me.
What the hell! He was always a thin, 32 inch waist kind of guy. Now he had a jiggly paunch protruding out over his belt and waddled as he walked! We gave eachother a quick man hug and he looks over, smiling, "Dude, look at you! You're all fit and trim! Look at me, I got fat!"
"Yeah, what the hell!??! What, are you doing the beer and potatoes diet or something?"
"Mostly beer," he says, smiling. "How'd you lose your gut?"
"I stopped eating sh*t and started working out!"
"Yeah, I can tell....I haven't gone running in over a year" (He used to rack up 20-30 miles a week)
"How's that been working out for you?"
Well we're good enough friends that we can give each other a hard time and move on.....but I gotta tell you, I'm still in shock. It's nice to have someone you know well tell you that you're looking fit and trim (we haven't seen each other in about 3 years, back when I was somewhat "paunchy" myself), but I didn't expect there to be a total role reversal here.
Another reminder that we can take nothing for granted....that it's all too easy, especially as we get older, to fall in to bad habits that can quickly take their toll on us....much quicker than the time it takes to recover, drop the weight and effects of poor nutrition and exercise.
I've always liked the story of how Roman Generals were reminded of the impermanence of success.
"For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. But a slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: All glory is fleeting."
Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Have a great day Spark friends - take nothing for granted!
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Man what a day! I drove about 200 miles all over northern Virginia looking at all sorts of houses. It really is amazing to see the differences between what people advertise and what their homes really look like...even when they post pictures!
But I've got a couple of good prospects and a bunch more to see Thursday & Friday, so I'm pretty sure I'll have a lease signed before flying back home on Saturday.
It really is a nice part of the country though! There's tons of civilization! The Florida Emerald Coast is beautiful, with white, sugary sand and emerald green water....but beyond that, it's a little sleepy.
Three blocks from my hotel is a Wegman's grocery....it makes Whole Foods look like K-Mart!
I went there for lunch AND dinner in between house hunting. It was amazing! First of all it was great to have a whole bunch of nice fresh salad fixins, to include roasted broccoli (it was seriously amazing!), a nice pico de gallo to put on the salad with some olive oil (who needs dressing!), and a hot bar with some choice selections of tandoori chicken, masala tilapia (say that 3 times fast!), and assorted other ethnic cuisines....double yum!
So I was glad I could at least eat right on the road.
The hotel I'm staying at has the standard cruddy fitness center with a squeaky elliptical and a geriatric stair-climber. Luckily they also have an arrangement with a gym half a mile down the road for free visits, so I went there early in the morning for some cardio, then went back around 8:00 PM to lift.
It was packed both times! I am used to my gym thinning out around 6:00 PM, hence my surprise (remember what I said about it being sleepy hollow in Florida though). Apparently, with civilization comes over-population as well.
I figured since we're moving, I might as well see how I can lift heavy on my own without Stasi the trainer guy. It actually went pretty well. Once I got to the heavy sets, I knew enough to eye-ball the few who knew what they were doing and asked them to spot me so I wouldn't crush myself doing bench presses...it's always awkward to be the new guy at the gym who has the bar fall on him during his first visit!
It all went well. I didn't set any records, but I basically repeated my last few heavy workouts within a rep or 2 each set. But man it seemed like there were people stacked left and right waiting for squat racks & benches.
Which makes me wonder if I just need to find a house with a large basement or a large open area so I can finally build my own home gym.....hmmmm, this could be a good move after all!
Have a great night Spark friends!
Monday, May 13, 2013
Well once again, today was a high rep leg day....this is where I squat about 70% of my max weight for 15 reps, then deadlift about 80% of my max weight for 15 reps. These are the days that try men's souls. The summer gym rat and the sunshine lifter will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their bodies; but they that stand by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
The only reason I so poorly paraphrase Thomas Paine is that today, I worked out with my trainer. Yes, those of you who follow my travails with this East German Stasi agent, should know that today he decided to work in with me. That in and of itself deserves a re-reading of our Revolutionary War documents!
Note, he didn't ask if he could work in with me....he declared, in the way that only a Communist peasant can declare to a landowner that the family farm now belongs to the state.
"Today, I vill verk in vit you" (Today, I will work in with you)
"What is this the gym equivalent of a Proletariat Revolution? This is America you Commie bastard. I'm paying YOU to train ME!"
"I vill also do legs today" (I will also do legs today)....he gave me that stubborn Eastern European look (he could be Russian, Ukrainian, or any number of ethnic blends) that signified he'd just wait me out till I came around to doing it his way.
"OK, you're on dude....3 sets of 15 reps, mano-a-mano. And don't start talking any Bolshevik in between sets!"
So off we went. I slapped 185 lbs on the bar for squats and counted, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.....then repeated. The only way I get through these is to just think of doing 3 sets of 5. By the time I was done, my heart rate was up to 90% of max.
I won't even say what Stasi-boy put on the bar, but it was impressive. As were his squats....deep, knees BELOW parallel, slow and controlled. I hate him.
Then I went again. Second set tougher than the first, but 15 solid squats later, I was done.
Stasi boy got under the bar....and eked his out as well....but I detected a slight vibrato in his voice at the end of the set....he was feeling the pain.
YES, finally, a chink in the armor. Screw you and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat....I'm squatting for Democracy, Truth, Justice, and the American Way!
I slapped that bar on my back and squatted for all we hold dear people! Quotes by Thomas Paine floated in my head, "....the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value!"
Fifteen long squats later, I got out from under the bar, looked into his Slavic eyes and thought, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country. but just smiled and said, "All yours, Comrade!"
He worked his Teutonic butt off for that last set....it didn't come easy....even he was heaving by the end of it. Did I feel sympathy, did I feel any remorse, regret, compassion?
Not even a flicker!
"Let's go Tovarich, deadlifts next!"
I pulled 255 lbs, 15 times for those 3 sets. My heart rate was up, my breathing was up, I was sweating like a race horse....but for me, this was the final showdown, this was Rocky 4 all over again, no way in hell was I going to not get that bar up every time! In your face Mother Russia!
Have I mentioned, I'm a little competitive?
So it was quite possibly the best hi-rep day I have had in a very, very long time. Not only did I knock out major PRs on squats and deadlifts, but I actually felt nice and strong doing them. There might be hell to pay tomorrow on my legs as I sit in a plane for hours on end, but that's the price we pay for supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic!
Have a great night Spark friends!
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
Many of you know about the ruthless ex-Stasi agent I call my personal trainer (although he could be Russian Spetsnaz, Croatian Ustachi, or a Chechen Rebel.... he's basically a Communist, a chameleon...he is evil, he has no soul....but he is a damn good trainer....I hate him, but we work out together 3x/week no matter what!)
Well today was my favorite of all our lift days....heavy legs! We do it about every 10-12 days, because I need that much time in between to recover. I focus on the complex moves...squats and deadlifts, then add in some assistance exercises like leg extensions and hamstring curls. Then I work on back by doing pullups (overhand grip on the bar), chinups (underhand grip on the bar), rows, etc.
I went on a business trip last week and only did cardio and some basic ST with some cruddy dumbbells in the hotel gym. Anyway, my excuse for today is that I got out of my rhythm of lifting for a few days.
So today we started off with squats and I got in 4 sets of 4 at 260 lbs, feeling pretty good, but I had to work for it. Trainer guy gave me an assist on the 4th squat of sets 3 & 4. Nonetheless, it was a PR, but we'll stay there for a few weeks until I can smoothly get 4 sets of 5.
Then I tackled the deadlift, determined to get 4 sets of 5....but I only got 3 sets of 4 and once again really worked for them. But I also had my first failure.
On my second set, I pulled the bar off the ground about 2 inches....then dropped it right back on the floor.
My first deadlift failure! What to do!
Trainer guy looks up me with this sh*t-eating grin, "Yor furst vailure!" (Your first failure!)
"What, are you happy I failed you miserable Commie?"
"Ve all doo eet...dis is just yor furst" (We all do it....this is just your first)
Or did he say worst?
Then he comes at me with, "Dry again (Try again). Vit so much vate (with so much weight), only tink about da vurst pool (only think about the first pull). Get eet oaf da grount, (get it off the ground), don't tink about da tird or vort reps (don't think about the 3rd or 4th reps)"
"Or we can lighten da load some?"
What, did I hear him right, did he say "we can lighten the load some"....who the hell are you and what did you do with my trainer.
I look him in the eye, "What, so all of a sudden you're Maximus the Merciful....I suppose if you lighten it up, I'll just have to do 10-15 reps right?"
"Uv gors!" (Of course!)
So I went back, got my mind straight, thought about nothing but lifting that bar off the ground just one time.....and up it went, smooth and by the numbers. I did a second rep....wobbled through a third rep....pulled with everything I had for a 4th....then set the bar down.
A third set was a repeat of the second, 4 reps and back on the ground went the bar.
But I felt good....yeah, I had my first failure...and it was humbling....but it wasn't the end...it was more a mental battle than a physical battle...it took getting mind and body to work together, taking nothing for granted.
In the end, did I feel like Gladiator?
Hmmm....actually a lot more like Braveheart!
Have a great night Spark friends!
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