Monday, December 31, 2007

Windmills

Today I began to ease myself back into the kettlebells. I've taken about a week and a half off from lifting for a rest before beginning the next 6 months of training. I've learned that it really sucks to just jump in with both feet after a lay off. I began with some joint mobility and focused on some problem areas, back and hips. Then I warmed up with some body weight exercises which I will describe in a later post. Then I began working the core area of the body.

The windmill is an excellent exercise for the working the core and the shoulders. You can see from the video what to do. Let me give you some pointers: turn both feet in the direction you are going to bend or fold your body; you may bend your forward leg; keep you rear leg and butt locked tight; breath in before you bend and out on the way up; you can achieve a deeper stretch by flexing your hamstring on the locked leg.

video

Workout:
Pull up: 5x10
Windmill: 16K 5x5, 24k:3x5
Turkish Get Up: 16K 5x5, 24k 3x5
Swing: 24K 2min.

Note:
It is highly recommend that you seek out an RKC trainer before you attempt this exercise.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Benson Bop

Thursday I met Dean and Mike on the outskirts of Raleigh for the Benson Bop. The route is a rolling 47 miles with more than 2000 ft of climbing. It makes for a perfect training route. Unfortunately for me, it is not here at the beach. The route will become part of a longer route in the near future. I'm sure I will have the opportunity to become acquainted with this area of North Carolina soon enough.

I must say I got a little more than I bargained on this route. I needed to get time on the saddle and I was going stir crazy couped up on boxing day. Within the first 5 miles, I knew it would be a long day and I wondered why I hadn't ridden a little more regularly between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My legs were already jello with some deep pain. I figured it was a relatively short day and I have hurt far more on the bicycle for considerably more miles so I kept spinning. It was worth it. I felt great and felt ready to do more miles at the end of the day.

The mantra: If the pain or injury will heal within a week or two....keep going.

We stopped in Benson, NC for lunch. YUM!

A pond along the route. The glassy water made a perfect mirror of the shore line.
Mike taking some pictures of an old mill house.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Hardest Thing to DO

Picture is a ship sitting in the Chesapeake Bay on Christmas day.

After opening gifts on Christmas morning, I went for a ramble around the beach areas. It turned out to be a beautiful morning but I kept watching the weather looking, hoping it would get warm. I think part of me wanted an excuse to sit inside on the couch for a few more hours.

The past 4 months has been difficult to get going. I want to do things, I know the benefit and I understand the pitfalls of resting an extra day here and there. If the motivation isn't there nothing will occur. The reasons for doing what ever you do need to be clear so that you can do the consistently. Do you have a goal? Do you have a need? Do you have desire?

I find that once I am on the bike or have done the first couple sets of kettlebells or weights, I am ready to go and don't want to stop until I have met or exceeded the days planned goals. This is regardless of the difficulty of the event.

I should say that I hate everything until I am doing it. It's always been that way. This goes for all training in Marine Corps too. MCMAP (martial arts), rifle range (too early), pistol range, NBC, schools or even getting out of bed in the morning. Don't misunderstand what I've said. Once immersed in an event, I am ALL about it and it is the most important thing happening. It is fun and I want to do more.

Bottom line, go out and have FUN in your activities!

Ride:
25mi

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What else can I do?

I get asked the question, " What else can I do?" It is usually in reference to training, especially but not limited to kettlebell training. If you think about it, there are hundreds or even thousands of options and variety when it comes to training. Most of us would be best suited to pick 3 or 4 exercises that focus on several areas of the body at the same time. Really keep it simple.

The doctor in The Cannon Ball Run only relied on two "medical tools" for his practice.



Most people don't stick with anything more than 3 weeks. Their impatience leads them to expect miracles to occur. When they don't, they move on or quit. These short periods don't lend enough time to practice correct technique. Mastering form and technique results in consistent gains without risking injury.





Last winter we trained in the gym for a few months. My training partners kept laughing at the looks I gave the misguided and misinformed people. I didn't correct these people out of courtesy. One example of this is the kid in caveman mode. This Sailor probably lifted in high school football or something and he knew everything. Also of note, he was obviously hadn't done any training since his last game in high school. Beer belly and pushing 200 pounds.

This lumox had to show his buddies how to properly squat. They warmed up with 135#, not even close to parallel. He proceeded to add weight until he had close to 300#. This is where we all stopped to gasp at his stupidity. Caveman got under the bar. His buddies were on either side of the barbell spotting him. He stepped back and squatted about 4 inches and back up. "That's how it is done," he said with a high five!

About this time I busted out in laughter! When my belly quit hurting and the Sailors were done racking the weights, I approached our barbell, and completed my deadlift 10th set of 5 reps with a meager 225. My focus was to just get better and more efficient pulling the weight. Certainly I could have popped 300 on the bar, but why? The 3 Sailors watched us in silence as we completed the workout. They didn't say anything but they wanted to.

What else can you do?
Master a few lifts. Stick to them for 6 months or 6 years; the longer the more benefit. The lifters setting new PRs don't just work on something for 3 or 4 weeks. They work and practice consistently for years. The results are worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears.


My plan for the next 6 months is to stick to the basic kettlebell lifts and keep it simple. Here is the basis: Day 1: snatch, clean and jerk, pull up. Day 2: front squat or tgu, and military press, pull up. That is all. I will add some assistance exercises at times to help the effectiveness of these lifts. Also, In March or April, I will replace squats with pistols.

Your plan?
I recommend one of the following: Power to the People (PTTP), RKC program minimum and moving to the RKC right of passage. All three of these are excellent and will change your body and fitness level to that of an ELITE WARRIOR.

What else can you do?
Forget about everything else. Avoid the latest fad workout or routine someone else is doing. Remain consistent!

Friday's Ride:
25 miles

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Hip Flexor and Back Pain

The question: How did you overcome your back pain?

Answer: I haven't! I hurt right now. It does have an adverse affect on all activities and probably reduces my over all strength by a huge amount (I will describe this in another post). Really, it is there most of the time and perhaps the pain is dulled because my body has adjusted and turns pain in that area off. I get days and weeks that don't bother me as much as others. When this happens, I forget my injury is chronic and do something stupid (read fun) that aggravates the injury again. I am better than I was 2 years ago. At that time I couldn't put on socks or skivvies. A couple cortisone shots in the spine (OUCH!!!!!) and hundreds of swings and the pain seems to be remedied.

Kettlebell training allows me to have an active mostly pain free lifestyle! I am strong, loose and better than average flexibility in all areas. Body areas damaged by severe trauma function relatively normal and don't impede performance too much.

Part of the process of pain relief is learning about the back and it's function. Here are some thoughts:

I read somewhere that building lower back strength is best avoided. It is better to build endurance in the back so that you can have longer periods of time without back pain. I've found this to be true.

It is essential to keep the hip flexors loose. It is common for most of us in America to have tight hip flexors. The main reason is the amount of time we sit. It is also common for many Americans to have chronic back pain. If you do the math, they are related. When you are tight, your pelvis is being pulled. This is what the hip flexor is supposed to do. It causes your butt to stick out and your upper body to roll forward. When this happens, the lumbar region undergoes serious stress. The weight of the upper body and head is supported by this region.

Supporting the upper body is best left for the hips and pelvis. When the hip flexors are loose, weight is shifted and centered on the hips. You've guessed it, the stress on the lumbar is relieved.

Two easy ways to keep the hips loose. First, kettlebell swings, duh!

Second is to pry the hips in a stretch similar to the yoga cobra. When on your hands and knees, tighten you butt, breath in and drop your hips (butt tight). Look over your shoulders towards your feet. Try to see the opposite foot. Do this multiple times during the day.

Contact me if you would like more info on being loose and mobile!

Practice:
Pull up 5x5 alt with swings, 1leg DL and 5 r/l windmills. 16k

Clean and Jerk: 7 min 24K 5l,5r per min. (70 reps)

Snatch VO2: 15 on/15 off. 22 sets of 8 reps. (176 reps) I learned I can do 9s on the right. (Left back is too weak only 8s on left)

Snatch 24K 5l5r x 5 (50 reps). I need to do more with the larger weight.

Hanging leg raises 5x5

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Image




















This image was posted on the DD forum. I think it's bueno!

Saturday's Workshop

On Saturday, I held a beginners kettlebell workshop. Crossfit Virginia Beach is very gracious and let me use their gym for a few hours. They like to seek people improve themselves with a little physical pain and fatigue. Thanks guys.

I had a blast providing information and criticizing technique. I can tell you for a fact that all of the participants made giant leaps in their kettlebell lifting techniques and improved their knowledge of strength training.

We covered the swing, get ups, windmill, military press, clean, and snatch. I threw in a couple of mini practical application workouts to demonstrate how to put it all together.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Training Day

My fitness level is pretty good in my opinion. One of my training mantras is to simply become bullet proof. This means I can just go do stuff. Run 5K, Ride 130+ miles, rock climb, swim, hike or just play with my daughter. There is nothing worse than reaching to pick an infant only to have your back give out. Well, I think I have succeeded in this.

I can get better though. My training for the past 6 months has lacked focus. Even when I tried to focus earlier this fall, it was still the minimum. This was still effective! Now it is time to take this fitness base and build. I have upcoming events that require focus in training. The culmination of the first half of the year is the RKC II certification which is only 3 weeks after a 600K ride.

I went back to intensity today. I would have to go back months to find intensity in training. Today I combined 2 workouts that I have been using for sustainment. The result? Good training.

Swing: 24K 1x50
Windmill: 16k - 5x5
L/C Clean and Jerk (1arm): 24K 10 min alt. 5r/5l - 120 reps
2 min rest
VO2 Max Snatch: 16K: 36 on: 36 off 15 reps per set: 10l,10r 300total

Snatches started a little rough. I felt my back acting up for the first 5 sets and considered calling it a day. On the 6th set, I must have finally gotten warmed up. The pain disappeared and my power in the left side returned.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Test Day

Got up early this morning for the 2nd physical fitness test of the year. It was a beautiful morning and I won't complain a bit. My other option was last Friday and that was COLD and "breezy." I have blogged about the requirements for the test in the past. The actual post is here. It explains the requirements and how I fared in June.

How did I do today?

Pull up: 17...again. All I can say is they are getting easier to nail the 17. Improvement will come! Can you say persevere? A little more work and I will get it.

Crunch: 100 maxed. This is too easy. I nearly finished in the first minute 1:07. No sore back either. I guess I am doing something right. I can assure you one thing. I haven't done one single crunch since June. Lots of evil wheel and hanging leg raises are the way to go. Don't forget swings.

Run: 26:26. Not too bad for 9 miles this year. I felt good for the most part. All those swings and snatches really pay off, don't you think?

Score: 234 this is a 7 point improvement from June. It is all in the run.

Now that this is over I will continue training. The immediate focus is the brevet season right around the corner. I leg strength is the main focus to carry me through the season to the RKC II where we will do pistols (1 leg squats). Well, strength everywhere (GPP). I will also begin preparing the snatch test for the RKC II.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Perfect Weather

I couldn't pass up the opportunity to ride on such a perfect day. I rode with shorts. The AM ride presented temperatures in the upper 50s maybe even 60, I had a steady headwind for most of the ride. I'm not complaining about that. The afternoon ride allowed riding with short and short sleeves. How cool is that on a December afternoon?

Interestingly on the way home, I saw two wrecks within about a mile's distance. The first had three cars crunched in the median. The second was actually on the right side of the road. The truck had a little ding in the fender. I couldn't turn around to see the other vehicle's front side. I'm going to take a stab and guess that these people were driving while holding a cell phone and perhaps even doing makeup. For some unknown reason I feel far more secure on a bicycle than driving down the road with all all the crazies

Swings: 32K: 1x50
Ride AM 15mi
Ride PM 17 mi....I tried a slightly different route on some back roads and actual bike paths. I think I shall keep it. Less traffic....slower traffic...relaxing.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Bike Commuting in Duluth, MN

MN Bicycle Commuter is a great blog about bicycle commuting in Duluth, MN. I lived in that area for a few years and the weather can get down right BRUTAL. At any rate, there are some fantastic photos of the Duluth Harbor in winter. Right now the temps are in the single digits and there is about 2 feet of snow. Check it out.



Geography: Duluth is located at the most southerly area of Lake Superior, the largest fresh water lake in the world. It is freeking huge. I liked to call it the Superior Ocean. You can't see end to end and there are tankers in the port from all over the world picking up iron ore from the large mines located on the MN arrowhead. Probably the most famous ship wreck is the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975.



Gordon Lightfoot tells the story:

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Gifts to ME

When we arrived home from work this evening, there were 5 packages of varying weight stacked neatly by the door. I'm sure the UPS guy is pleased. That is ok though the International Brotherhood of Teamsters ensures he has great benefits. Now I can say I helped him with some benefits too. He got to lift several kettlebells and is now on his way to improved fitness.






I actually purchased the Russian Reds for my upcoming workshop. They look cool.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

December Kettlebell Workshop


Decision...Perhaps...Maybe

I think I've made the decision to do the physical fitness test on Friday. I probably won't make any large improvements in a week. It also makes sense because I kinda tapered already and feel ready for some punishment. The taper will continue for the next two days with an event on Friday AM. I will do some swings and RIS during this period.

The events are pull ups, must do at least 3; 20 is worth maximum points. Crunches is a time limit of 2 minutes, 100 is the max. A 3 mile run caps off the test.

Practice:
Pull up: BW
18,12,8,6,4

Monday, December 3, 2007

Under the Weather and offline

I've been under the weather thus I have taken a few days off from the normal training. I also took an extra day off to ensure the bug was past. I don't want to break down the immune system too much. I will be back to normal schedule soon.

The semi-annual physical fitness test is right around the corner. I can either get it out of the way this Friday or do it next Wednesday. They both have their advantages. Waiting a week won't give me too much difference in score but I could knock out another pull up or so. If I go on Friday, I can get it over with and continue training for events later in the year and next.

I guess the determining factor will be the weather forecast. Now that I have looked at it, I am leaning towards Friday AM. I will be a little cooler but dry and little wind. These are fairly favorable conditions. The best part is the weekend outlook, sunny and warm, perfect for some riding on la bicyclette.

In the mean time, I have done many pull-ups.

Friday, Sat, Sun,: -- this is tough!
15,12,10,8,6,4

Monday:
12,12,12