Sunday, April 29, 2007

Not with a heavy heart do I walk...

For the past couple of weeks I've basically been a bum, albeit a busy one. I stopped working at Equinox, and I do a little training on the outside, but for the most part I'm doing a lot of prep work, spending time with the friends and family, that kind of stuff.
My physical conditioning isn't a problem, so I've been doing a lot of work on the mental side, and it's paying off.
It seems like my life is composed of these neat little adventures that sort of tie into one another and leave me never bored. The more I think about it, the more I like it that way. I guess maybe that's why the prospect of packing up everything I own, leaving everything I know behind, and going to war isn't that big a deal to me. What's the alternative? Sit in the same place rotting until you die in front of the tv with a beer in your hand? That's no way to live.
There was a movie a while back by Albert Brooks called 'Defending Your Life'. The premise of this movie was that when you die you don't necessarily get judged on how good a person you were, but rather on how much you let your fear control you. I've always thought that was a pretty right on notion. I know a lot of people who don't do the things they want to do because of their personal fear. Fear can definitely be a healthy thing, it lets you know when trouble is near, and when you need to avoid danger. Sometimes though, fear holds you back from fulfilling your own destiny.
If you can control your fear, and understand that there is no greater thing than serving your fellow man, well you've got a pretty good recipe for a fulfilling life right there.
So for my friends and family who are still trying to key in on why I do what I do, and in particular why I am doing this, it is important to understand that I do not go into this with a heavy heart, full of dread and a sense of loss for whatever I now pack into boxes. I walk full of happiness, because I know that whatever occurs over the next year and a half, I dared greatly, and that is the only thing I ask of myself.
We have so little time here, and I don't want my last thoughts to be that I should have done something and I did not.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

How tire pulling benefits running

I have been doing a lot of tire pulling of late based upon my belief that this was working my cardio a lot and working my legs hard for the type of tactical endurance that I need. Now what do we need to run fast? Overall muscular endurance, but in particular in the legs. We also need cardiovascular endurance and increased lung capacity. I don't really lift weights anymore. I will do some heavy compound movements such as deadlift, push press, etc. once in a while, but most of my resistance training comes in the form of kettlebells, push ups, pull ups, etc. What I have seen from this is a great increase in strength, virtually no injuries, and no joint issues of any kind. I went for a quick 3 mile run yesterday and for the first time in my history, my legs were not a problem. My legs have always been the first thing to give out on me, followed by my wind. This time the only real issue I had was a bizarre pain in my shoulder, which I think may have been a one time thing. When I consider the power applied by my legs in dragging a tire up a hill, this was obviously beneficial. If you're a believer in workout totals of weight moved, this makes sense. In crossfit and other systems it isn't always a matter of saying "I can squat 255 lbs." It may be more a matter of saying "I moved 3,455 lbs. this workout." Going by this philosophy, I am moving a tremendous amount of weight by dragging a tire 3 miles. It is hard to estimate the true poundage, as a 40 pound tire dragged one mile over pavement, produces many more pounds moved than a 40 pound tire dragged over loose gravel for the same distance.
Proponents of traditional workout methods may declare this can't work because you are going to overtrain, but if you are training for maximal endurance, strength, and power, and keeping your workouts under an hour, how is this possible?
Put simply, you are working hard in order to be able to work hard.

P.S. I have now fixed the comments system so you don't have to register with google. Thanks Bert.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Glass Effect

Cindy began training with me at equinox in Palo Alto way back in October of 2006. Since that time she was consistently 3-4 times a week, rarely out, and never quit.
People stumbling upon the 'muscledriver' during a workout in Equinox automatically assume she is some sort of genetic marvel swinging 16-24 kilo kettlebells, doing dead hang pull ups, and performing other magical feats.
Cindy came in with a very strong lower body and good cardio from road biking, but other than that she was basically starting from the same place everyone does. What was the magical ingredient? Proper training, and hard work.
By proper training I mean that once we had built a sufficient base of strength using more traditional methods we mostly stuck to whole body compound movements such as Deadlift, Squats, Shoulder Press, etc. and Russian Kettlebells, push ups, pull-ups, etc.
Now that I am out of Equinox for a few weeks before deploying we are 'bridging the gap' so to speak by doing more advanced strength work such as tire pulling, and covering the kettlebell fundamentals again in preparation for the RKC certification she is planning on attending.
The point that I am trying to hammer home here yet again is that we often impose weird limitations on ourselves because we make silly assumptions. I very recently thought about this concerning strongman training. Most people watch strongman events (I did the same) and think "Oh, that's that 'strongman' training."
Yeah, I don't want that. I don't want to be a 'strong man'. Of course people might be concerned they will become giant thick necked monsters. These guys eat two actual horses each day to get that big, so don't worry about it. Stuff as simple as dragging tires or standing in a field throwing big rocks will most likely make you stronger than any carefully contrived weight training plan. Most often people just cannot believe this because you think all that stuff in the gym must be necessary.
Think again.
There is one caveat to this though, in that it would be easy to injure yourself if you do not know what you are doing, because you are putting your body under a lot of stress. How to prepare? Push Ups, Pull Ups, Squats. Set a number of push ups for yourself each day and meet it by doing them in sets throughout the day.

Below is some video of Cindy and I at The Dish in Palo Alto doing some training. You may note her shoulders overextending out on some swings, an issue we have since corrected. Also, something to be aware of in your own training, is how on occasion on the lest rep her form breaks down. This is a common occurence in all athletes. We maintain perfect form throughout the exercise, and when we feel we are 'done', the form breaks down.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tactical Training

Time is winding down folks. Most of my gear should be on the way, although some appears to be floating around out in the ether. I went up to my dad's place in the foothills where I did some conditioning work with the kettlebells and tire dragging. I also subjected my brother to the tire dragging, and he was less than pleased to find that his cardio was pretty much worthless when put to the test.
I also ran some drills on the .50 caliber rifle and 9mm pistol. My primary weapon will be a rifle, but if I have a sidearm it will be the 9mm beretta. A good weapon, and I should know as I carried one in the Marines and only had it jam twice on me in two years with the anti-terror unit, and thousands of rounds put through it.
Below is some footage I strung together. The music is kind of depressing, I know. What can you do?
One thing of note if you're an operator or weekend shooter is the use of the kettlebell swings to elevate my hear rate and get my breathing more labored before getting on target.
And yes, I know my eye was too far off the .50 scope.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The fun never stops...

I am currently in the process of ramping up my training, which means targeting it to more combat specific applications. Of primary importance are building up my endurance, back, and legs. Carrying loads over a sustained period of time while performing feats of strength and complex movements is key.
Today I did a 2.5 mile tire drag, followed by some kettlebells. Not really that much. The only pain about the drag was a lot of it was on pavement, which acts like a magnet on that tire and really slows me down.
Tomorrow I'm going up to my dad's place where I'll be running some drills on the pistol. I'm highly proficient with the rifle so that's not a problem, but I know my pistol work needs some help. I'm going to work on banging out a series of kettlebell swings, then drawing the pistol and trying to stay on target with an elevated heart rate and labored breathing. Should be interesting to see what effect that has as I haven't done it in a couple years.
The photo above is of some PJ's in Afghanistan that I found on the crossfit site. I didn't figure they would mind.

"The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war."
- George Patton, George Hyman Rickover, Chinese Proverb, etc.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

"Capable across a wide range of ahtletic activities"

This is a quote taken from the trial edition of the Crossfit Journal describing Olympian and Crossfit trainer Eva Twardokens. What does this really mean to you though? Think of this as establishing a base of fitness and then becoming more specific as you ready yourself for your individual event. For myself this means that now that I have established a good base of cardiovascular fitness and strength I will now become more specific toward my event (combat) by integrating things into my training that more directly address the rigors of said event. This means more interval training that requires bursts of speed and strength, with rest. More long distance hiking over uneven terrain, more max effort followed by sustained measured low output.
If you train crossfit, or another random interval style of training you will find that you never really 'succeed' in the traditional sense. This is due to the fact that your 'event' is always changing, therefore your body is never able to adapt to it and settle into a rhythm.
Take a highly skilled runner, someone who can knock out 3 miles in 15 minutes. You must assume has has a ton of endurance. So you throw him on a bicycle and he is promptly destroyed by a biker who would normally be considered to have less endurance when you compare their standings in their respective events. This is because each of these athletes is preparing for a very specific sport.
Now we break this down into a numbers game. Take your average Crossfitter of Girevik and put them up against a skilled runner. They are beaten in a foot race. You then select nine other events and watch the Crossfitter or Girevik systematically destroy the runner event after event. It is because the former is training for a wider range of events and is able to adapt more easily than the runner.
This form of training is more and more falling into favor with the elite community of firefighters, police, Soldiers and Marines, and the spec ops community. This is because they never know what their next event will be.
Now think about your day to day life. You may not be fighting insurgents or putting out fires, but surely you face events with unknown factors. Working an 18 hour day at the office, carrying a stroller down a flight of subway stairs, carrying heavy boxes, chasing your children around the park.
Which system do you think will best prepare you for that?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

40 lb. Bag Drag/Carry up the Dish

Today I went up to the Dish in Palo Alto, which is a sort of trail loop with some good steep hills. I brought a 40 lb. duffel bag and attached it to the harness. I alternated running or walking as I drug it, or carrying it on my shoulder. This was an ass kicker, as you don't really have the option of giving up, you have to get the bag back. I made sure to put stuff I needed in it so I wouldn't be tempted to ditch it. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

32 kilo kettlebell snatch

Today I finally snatched a 32 kilo kettlebell with my left hand, as my right hand is still fairly useless. It was a good day.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

I am not a crazy person

Dragging the tire has become a core part of my routine, as since I started doing this my strength and endurance have both increased a good deal. Working the entire body, in particular the back and legs, is essentially supercharging the body whole. The tire alone is about 80 lbs. I think. This became a little too easy, so I dropped a 24 kilo kettlebell in the middle of it, and also used this to perform snatches at either end of the drag.
One of the other Equinox trainers, Lisa, decided she wanted to drag the tire as well. At no point did she cry, fall apart, or burst into flames. She did quite well, dragging it the length of the parking lot and back, as well as performing some rows/pulls with it.

So once again, there is no reason women cannot pursue strength training in much the same way (if not exactly the same way) that men do.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Training through an injury

Getting injured is the worst, particularly if you are an advanced athlete. I recently sustained a sprain to the pinky on my right hand. This may not seem like a big deal, until you realize that my right hand is effectively useless. Any gripping action will only inflame the injury. The first thing I did (after trying to 'tough it out' for a week) was to think of exercises that required no hand use. Running of course, and tire draggin sprang to mind. With the arrival of my new dragging harness from I have been getting faster and stronger on the tire drag. I then decided to do left hand kettlebell movements like swings and snatches. I integrated these with my tire pull. Prior to my injury I was snatching a 24 kilo kettlebell easily with my right hand, but was shakey on the left. Now that I must use only my left hand, I am easily snatching the 24 kilo with what was previously my weak hand. I have used my injury to turn a weakness into a strength.
When trying to train through an injury you must use good judgement. With enough knowledge you can train through nearly any injury, but you have to be a realist and know when to say when. You cannot always use an injury as an opportunity to break through plateaus, sometimes you must settle for maintenance.
Next blog I am going to take a hypothetical (Erin :) ) of someone with a messed up ankle to work out an effective training program to give you some ideas.