Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Long Road

Just a list of marginally related thoughts.

The value of discomfort exceeds the results gained. Hard work is not merely a virtue on it's own but it imbues us with qualities we have forgotten to revere.

We admire those who do uncomfortable things, yet we consistently choose comfort as our top priority. We chose to live as we are. We chose not to want adventure, but to have adventured. We want the memories and the admiration. We don't want the fame, we want the trappings that go with it. We want Total Recall. In this way, we rob ourselves of the real value of those uncomfortable things.

You do things the hard way, avoiding the left hand path of quick aesthetic results, and you come out the side as something more. Tougher and stronger certainly, but also filled with a greater reserve of will and spirit. It is not the results that grant you this, it's what you went through to get them.

Now days you're a bad ass if you get off the couch and do anything that involves a barbell. Deadlifting 135 pounds for reps is some kind of feat. 

We all have the same attitude you see so often in online games; anyone I can beat is a noob, anyone who beats me has no life and spends too much time in the gym. This is why bad asses can get away with deadlifting 135 for reps.

Sometimes working smarter is working harder. Being able to deadlift 540 once does much more for someone than being able to pull 135 for 20. If your goal was to set the all the plates on a thigh high platform, it would also be more efficient.

Most people understand what they need to do, you just have to convince them that it really is that simple. Lift progressively heavier things, do progressively harder aerobic work, eat well, don't push it too far and be consistent. Give people guidance on how to do this safely and you can get 95% of us to our goals.

Buying a DVD that tells you you'll lose weight by waving your arms in your living room is simply preparing an excuse for failure ahead of time. You should have bought a book that teaches you the value of arm waving instead.

Paleolithic man didn't have it right, he just didn't have the same opportunities to get it wrong that we do. Give a cave man a loaf of Wonder Bread and I have no doubt he'd eat it.

Agriculture isn't inherently bad, it's misused. The same could be said for grain.

We have forgotten that discomfort and boredom are often a fact of life. This is the best thing we can learn from contemplating Paleo man. If your choices for a bed are  a pile of leaves on wet ground or a pile of leaves on dry ground, you're going to be able to deal with being uncomfortable much better than people who use Sleep Number mattresses.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kettlebell Roadwork a la Maffetone

The concept is simple. You set two kettlebells somewhere between 40 and 100 yards apart. Do a few swings, then jog to the other kettlebell and do a few reps of something else. Alternately you could carry one bell back and fourth in a suitcase carry. I got the idea from from a fellow named Aussieluke over at Dave Draper's Iron Online.

Maffetone comes into play by trying to keep your heart rate in a target zone using his 180 formula. Another simple concept. Keep your heart rate in the target zone and avoid overtraining and make better gains.

What they don't tell you is how soon you'll want to smash your incessantly beeping heart rate monitor. For a guy who shies away from aerobic exercise until it's a necessity (it is a necessity in my line of work) it's damn hard keeping my heart rate in that target zone.

Much like easy strength this doesn't feel like enough work, which also adds to the temptation to push harder, until your heart rate monitor starts nagging again.

I'm not going cardio bunny just yet. I'm still hitting the weight room hard and throwing heavy things. However, I do need to maintain the ability to run a decent 1.5 mile and after not using my kettlebells for about eight weeks during my recent 5 x 5 work, I felt slow and heavy despite my strength gains. I got a lot of snap back in my throws and some pop back in my squat after just a few workouts with my bells.

Since I don't normally enjoy running (I can tolerate it, and relax enough to feel good doing it but that doesn't mean I care for it) and I was getting other good benefits out of KB work, it seemed natural to try kettlebells for aerobic work again. I've been looking for "runless running", a way to keep my run time at a reasonable level without actually running, for a while with little success.

I started by getting a baseline for a decent 1.5 mile. 14:35. Passing, but just barely. This would give me a score that would mean I'd have to re-take the AFPT eval every six months instead of once a year. That means more running and that just won't do.

The first KB aerobic workouts were a simple 15 minutes of constant swings, snatches, squats, push ups and planks. Doable, but brutal and with heart rates in the 175-190 range. Those high heart rates lead to me wanting to slow things down. You can't serve two masters, maximal strength and power comes at the cost of never reaching maximal aerobic capacity. "Specialization works, but at a cost"

If I was going to get what I wanted, without limiting my gains in the weight room and on the field, I needed efficiency. Flogging myself that hard would just wear me down. So after a week, I dropped the reps to twos, threes and fives to keep my form good, and added the jogging or loaded carry. I also picked locations with uneven ground and some easy obstacles, to keep my feet and ankles strong and limber for running without covering lots of distance. Thus was born Kettlebell roadwork a la Maffetone.

Will it work?

I don't know. I am certain that something is better than nothing. To keep my AFPT score in the once a year range I need something like an 11:30 1.5 mile (last time I took the test I was close to this, but it left me wiped out for an entire day afterwards). I plan to make another timed run in the first of July and hopefully that will give me some indication of success or not.

In the mean time, changing habits and listening for beeping continues.

Friday, June 1, 2012

My lazy post on conditioning

I haven't been here much lately as life has been very busy for a few weeks. I had been trying to write something on conditioning and aerobics because the subject has been coming up a lot at work lately. However, Anthony Mychal has beaten me to it. One of the other users on the Dan John Q&A forum shared this a PDF from Mr. Mychal and it's absolutely excellent.

While he approaches the subject as a debunking of the HIIT craze, he's not attacking HIIT directly. Instead he goes after the myths that surround it and reveals HIIT to be exactly what it is, the training of one of the body's three energy pathways and not the path to ultimate athletic performance. In his wrap-up he goes on to show how in the world of human performance, everything varies by context, reminding us again that there is no one single path or one goal that does everything.

While some of his points chafed against long treasured beliefs of mine they are well supported and you can't dismiss them out of hand. Absolutely wonderful stuff, bookmarked, saved to my hard drive and printed off.

Without further ado: The Myth of HIIT