Archive for November, 2009

I’m pretty much a soggy mess right now; trying to see through salt-streaked glasses while I type and chill down from today’s PT. It probably should be called, “How to sweat buckets in three easy rounds.”

A simple protocol again; three rounds of five minutes each, with kettlebells.

Firstly, you take two kettlebells, and do several reps of jerks, then finish off the bulk of the five minutes with swings. Rinse, repeat–twice.

I started off lightly with a few Systema push ups, then went downstairs for a couple of minutes striking the heavy bag. Then went right in on the rounds. I picked up the 16 and 24 kg bells and did five jerks with left hand having the heavier bell and right hand the lighter, then reversed it for five jerks. Then one- and two-handed swings with the 24 kilo bell for the balance of the time (3.5 minutes or so).

A minute for a rest set, then back to the jerks–this time I did 20 total, switching bells halfway through. Then the swinging for the rest of the time. A rest set of a minute again, and back to the same pattern as the last one. I was getting blinded by sweat about halfway through that last round, and it continued as I was cooling down, doing my Systema active stretching. Plus, I was getting the start of a touch of the nausea during the workout, so I know that I was hitting it hard.


2 min, Systema push ups
2 min, heavy bag striking (arms/legs)


Round One (5 minutes)
– 10 two-handed jerks, switching hands halfway through (24/16 kg)
– One/two-handed swings (24 kg)

Rest Set (1 minute)

Round Two (5 minutes)
– 20 two-handed jerks, switching hands halfway through (24/16 kg)
– One/two-handed swings (24 kg)

Rest Set (1 minute)

Round Three (5 minutes)
– 20 two-handed jerks, switching hands halfway through (24/16 kg)
– One/two-handed swings (24 kg)

Post-Fatigue (Cooldown)

Systema active stretching

Today’s also a fasting day, and one thing I’ve also found is that the workout helps keep me busy on fasting days such that I don’t worry about eating for a while, which is nice! I last ate yesterday a little before 1600, so I plan on breaking fast a little after 1600 today, though no hurry on that.

I did suck down a bunch of water and some minerals, after the session (zinc and magnesium), as well as a big tab (1000mg) of Vitamin Charlie. Well, off to get a much-needed shower–and then maybe a nap!! πŸ™‚


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… thank you very much.

I was inspired to finally hit the pool again today. I’ve been wanting to for a while, but just didn’t muster up the gumption to get over there after a workout yet. ‘Til today.

I caught some shows this morning dealing with diving, looking for underwater treasure–Megalodon teeth and such… you know how it is. And watched a video from IN-SEA TV where they were spearfishing and free-diving in Florida and Mexico. So, yeah… had to get some wet time.

Before heading over to the Y, I did a quick five minutes of one- and two-handed swings with the 24 kg kettlebell. Only a few with the left hand; my shoulder seemed to be tweaking a bit when I did it, so quickly made the two-handed swings the mainstay.

Then the “wellness” pool at the YMCA, because it was open swim all day, today. I set my watch for 30 minutes, and basically stayed in the water the whole time. I only grabbed the side twice, and only for long enough to first, take off my snorkel (I think I may need a better one–this one kinda gets in my way), and then later, to put it back on.

Most of my time was spent treading water or swimming around under the water-go down the bottom, cruise around, head back up for a few breaths, then back down–that sort of thing. I also practiced clearing and breathing through the snorkel. I can do it, but it actually feels like effort. Which is weird. I need more practice apparently, or to be doing something to take my mind off of it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been snorkeling out in the real world, and I don’t remember it being an effort like that.

I remember the same feeling, though, when I got my SCUBA cert; after doing everything on snorkel, switching to SCUBA was like magic. It was so easy and relaxing, I almost fell asleep underwater.

I do and have done lots of breath work over the years (with various disciplines such as Aikido, Qigong, Systema, meditation, etc., not to mention just regular old hard breathing from exercise), so maybe this is one more thing to help out getting better breathing. I know of a device that simulates breathing resistance that is said to help asthmatics, and it’s a bit like using the snorkel, just not in the water.

One of the nice things I’ve read about breath-hold (apnea) diving is that it actually increases oxygen usage capability in the brain. That’s pretty cool.

Anyway… though I stayed most of the time in the deep end, I hit the lanes a couple of times for lap practice. I wanted to practice my “combat swim stroke,” a US Navy SEAL swim stroke used by combat swimmers for prolonged swimming with minimal exertion. It’s a variation of the side stroke, basically.

After my thirty minutes of free swimming, I swam over to the jets on the side of the pool (which had to suffice for us in the days before they built the jacuzzi), and then slid down the little water slide they have there. Then back to the locker room for steam, sauna and jacuzzi time. Yay! πŸ™‚

I had intended on heading over to the University for fencing practice. Ankle is much better, though still not great for springing and lunging, but I thought I might just hang there and add some of my observations to the mix. Didn’t make it in time, alas.

All in all, I can tell that I need more kbell swings, and more water time.

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Today was a fasting day, and before adjourning to a friend’s Birthday/House Warming party, I held a private party of my own. Just me–and my kettlebells!

Simple protocol, timed using my GYMBOSS timer. Five minutes snatch with the 16 kilo bell (switching hands when necessary), one minute rest, five minutes long cycle clean and jerk with the 24 kg (ditto with the hands), one minute rest, then five minutes jerking the 32 kg bell (again, switching hands–in this case it was about every five jerks). Finish off with “dragon flags,” where you do basically a shoulder stand and holding on to something (in this case, the 32 kg kbell), then slowly lower your straightened out body to the floor.

5 min, snatches, both hands, (16 kg)
1 min rest
5 min, LCCJ, both hands (24 kg)
1 min rest
5 min, jerks, both hands (32 kg)
1 min rest
5 “dragon flags” (ab exercise)

Felt good, but I know I could’ve gone harder. I like the format. It’s hard, but doable for my “strength-while-fatigued” needs. I’ll be upping the counts for each, for following PTs.

Ankle is waaay better, too, but still not quite 100% on “spring” and compression (and flexibility). Better and better, though, and it didn’t seem to affect working in place. Don’t know if I can fence sport style, yet–or rather, with any effectiveness.

Also, I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even notice that I’m exercising on “empty.” Just doesn’t figure in. In fact, I may even be more likely to work out now on a fast than after having eaten during the day. It probably shouldn’t matter, but it’s kinda getting that way. If I’ve eaten, I feel like I shouldn’t work out for a while.

One thing’s for sure, the fasting’s gotten ridiculously easy. I seem to have broken any compulsion to eat; especially during fasting days–hunger is more of a momentary annoyance, then it’s gone. Even on eating days, I don’t feel like I “need” to stuff myself any extra, though I know I need to tweak it a bit more. We’ll see how that goes. Still too much ice cream and cookies, I bet… πŸ™‚

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So, Friday’s German Longsword practice went well, with Chris spending most of his time bringing Hallie up to speed (she had missed a couple of practices) and Fritz and I worked on the first longsword play, until we took a water break and we worked for most of the rest of the night on falling/rolling. Then Chris and Hallie joined in on that. Good stuff. Took a good breakfall from Chris when I was showing him how to guide a person down to the ground.

However, he didn’t actually “guide” me to the ground, but rather short-circuited my roll by guiding me partway to the ground and kept holding on, resulting in a pretty hard breakfall on the floor–concrete with a thin square of carpet on it. I was pleased though, because I took the fall in textbook fashion (probably because I was surprised and didn’t have time to think about it) and wasn’t in the least bit hurt.

Looked impressive, and I think it provided the group some good confidence in the veracity of good technique in self-protection when falling.

Saturday had Chris and I doing the third of the three seminars in close combat and Medieval dagger techniques. All of our students were repeats, except for Elaine, who had wanted to do it for a while. Was a really good session. Again, long day–1130 to 1730. My ankle was way better, but it still ached some, so that a couple of times throughout the day I had to just sit down on the mat, and let it rest. By the end of the day I was limping a bit, and didn’t feel like going anywhere. Which was unfortunate, as one of our friends had a birthday up in Adams Morgan. I elected to stay home that night, alas.

In this seminar, due to both our preference and the students’, we focused primarily on dagger technique and some strategy, leaving the rolling/falling just for warm-up, and very little unarmed wrestling. Since Elaine (a fencer with the Mary Wash Fencing Club) was relatively unfamiliar with rolling, I helped her with the basics, and then helped her come up to speed with some of the flow drills, both unarmed and with dagger. She picked it up quickly and did very well. Good job, Elaine!

Some of the students want there to be a club for the Medieval and Renaissance fighting arts, as there’s a modern fencing club, and a Renaissance club, but not club dedicated to the combat arts of that time frame. It’s Chris’ hope that we helped them get started by giving them some training, and that we can show up as guest instructors from time to time. He’s also been doing some informal training on Thursdays, I think, trying to get them motivated and trained. Hopefully they’ll get going on it.

I was feeling a bit overtrained on Sunday, so didn’t hit the PT for that day, and didn’t make it to the Fencing club. Tuesday found me at a symposium for some technology that I use. Finally back home. Yay! I’ll get a good workout in, sometime here in a couple of days! Cheers.

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Since I did a power PT on Sunday, today’s session would be all about sustained strength (aka “strength-endurance,” “prolonged strength,” or “strength-over-time”), featuring “fun with kettlebells.”

For the ramp-up to get my blood moving, I did a simple set of ten push ups on my Perfect Push Up (or are they “Ultimate Push Up”–I’ll have to check that out) handles, then a set of 20 swings with the 32 kg kbell.

Then it was the “Secret Service Snatch Test” (SSST), a simple but brutal set, using the 24 kilo bell. Basically, you have ten minutes to do as many kettlebell snatches as you can, anyhow you like. Totals for both hands add up, you can set the bell down if you like, just don’t quit your swingin’ ’til the timer goes off.

It’s been a long while since I did one like that, so I basically sucked. I did an even one hundred, by doing five sets of ten each hand. I think I still had plenty of go–overall energy-wise, but being my first time in a while, I took it easier than I will later. I could feel my forearms getting pumped, so I didn’t push it.

Since my grip was getting pumped, my next set of sustained strength was five minutes of Turkish Get Ups (again with the 24 kg). One of my fave exercises, for some reason. That got some sweat rollin’, too. My ankle was up to it, and the 24 is light enough that I didn’t notice much more pressure on it than if I was just getting up and down without the bell.

After that, some dynamic stretching Γ‘ lΓ‘ Kwan Lee’s “Strength & Flexibility” Systema DVD (which is a good addition to training protocol).

Today was also a fasting day. I’ve been experimenting with Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat fasting protocol. I’ve noticed that it’s been relatively easy to follow, once I got used to eating during the day. Hmm. That sounds odd, I know.

His method is super easy, in the sense that one of the things he’s trying to accomplish is to break people of certain obsessive-compulsive behavior toward food and/or eating. He wants this to fit easily into your life style.

There are other protocols out there that I’ve looked into. Most of them are pretty good in many ways. Warrior Diet, Leangains, and Fast-5. What each of those have in common is a timed fast every day.

Warrior Diet is 20 hours fasting, four hour eating window. Fast-5 is 19 hours fasting, five hours eating window (the “5” in Fast-5). Leangains is about 18 hours fasting, six hours eating window.

Fast-5 is the easiest in terms of instructions, in the sense that nothing else is stipulated in the diet, other than don’t eat for the appropriate time, then eat whatever your normal life would have you eat during the eating window. It works fairly well in social situations because more than likely you’d be having your first meal at dinner, with is convenient for eating with family and friends.

Warrior Diet is much more complex, in the sense that the author, Ori Hofmekler, outlines a whole philosophy that the diet, and its accompanying lifestyle spring from. What he’s trying to accomplish is a lifestyle that’s based on freedom and passion, and one of the cornerstones to that idea is being free from slavery to multiple daily meals is one major step in that direction (though he gets pretty specific in terms of eating certain foods in certain orders). From a lot of the comments and reviews I’ve read on different sites, a lot of people don’t get that thread. But that may be in part due to Hofmekler’s writing, too. He says over and over that you CAN do this or that, but you can also do it this way. But it’s all packed in there quite densely sometimes, so his multiple suggestions may be easy to miss. Sometimes he seems to contradict himself with suggestions that say, “however you want to practice is okay, just make it work for you,” and “if you’re doing this, you’re not doing the Warrior Diet.”

Martin Berkhan’s Leangains is a method that’s also pretty specific. His thing is a combination of fasting/eating window with very targeted and specific nutrition. I haven’t seen a book out by him yet, so I don’t know what his specific nutritional guidelines are, except that he likes to rotate low carb with moderate carb eating. Typically, I think, the moderate carb eating will be as part of post workout “recovery” meals.

Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat stipulates two musts: one to two 24 hour fasts a week, and make sure to do adequate strength training. Then he says that when you resume eating after the fast, don’t eat a big reward or recovery meal, just a normal meal to break the fast. He likes the 2×24 hour fasts because he believes it integrates into your life better. A lot of the Paleo crew agree most with this philosophy, as it is not an every day occurrence, and therefore the body reads it as more random (more “intermittent” from their perspective).

By integrating into your life very easily, it’s more likely to be sustained. For a lifetime. The benefits of intermittent fasting are becoming more and more known, and more research is being done to confirm earlier findings, on humans.

I could go into all that here, but the post is becoming a monster, so I’ll leave that for later.

To conclude, I’ve found that over the years of trying these different protocols, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m almost never hungry for breakfast until after 1030 (awakening at 0600). I can eat, if I must, before then, but usually no earlier than like, 0900. But I can usually go until 1130 or noon without becoming uncomfortably hungry.

Trying Brad’s method, I’ve already gotten to the point that a 24 hour fast is not only doable, but easy. Will it provide me with benefits? Well, here’s to experimentation, and finding out! Oh, and one other thing: it fits in perfectly with Systema. The earliest book they put out years ago recommended two days of fasting a week. Hunh. Whaddya know.

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I must have the worst case of dyscalculia… once again I was prepping for a Power To The People (PTTP) type lifting session and hosed up the weight amount when loading the bar.

But let me back up a little. Longsword on Friday was excellent, a good training session going over in some detail the first Zornhau “play” straight from Liechtenauer. Started off with striking practice with the longsword waster against a pell–in this case a mobile heavy bag such as I have in my basement.

Saturday I got a new chain and sprocket set put on the moto. Then I went up to some friends’ get together to celebrate the completion of both their renovation and their first home brewing experience. But I was a bit tired for some reason; I was a bit sleepy on the way up, then really sleepy on the way back and went basically right to bed. Only one beer, thank you very much…

Today, I woke up with a headache, and later just felt not quite right and unmotivated, so didn’t go to the University fencing practice. As time passed, I felt better, and wanted to get a workout session in, so I did, a little bit ago. Went for another strength session.

To activate the neuro-muscular system, I hit a few jackknife push ups (good description here) a bit before the heavy part of the session. Then I started off with 3 on either side of the “two-hands anyhow” with the 32 and the 16 kg bells. For the deadlift portion, I wanted to go just a bit heavier than I did for most of my reps last time, but less than the first two, which I had mistakenly loaded up more then I was anticipating.

This time, I basically made the same error, but worse!! Somehow, I got confused looking at the plate weights labeled on the side. The Weider weights I have have both kilos and pounds. So I looked at the wrong label or something when putting them on. Last time I had the 22 lb weights in addition to the three wheels of 44 lbs, either side.

So this time, I put what I thought were 15 lb disks on there. Alas, no!! These were 15 KILO disks!!! So after I lifted it, I saw that they were the 33 lb weights, either side. So instead of the 339 lbs I was expecting, I ended up with 375!! Now–I did lift it, but I knew that I didn’t want to do multiples up there, yet. I need to build my strength back up, for safety and health’s sake.

Let me have an aside here. People use words like strength, power, and endurance a lot, and kind of sloppily, as far as I’m concerned. I tend to use them in the common terms, because that’s what people seem to understand. But really, what’s the difference between “strength” and “power.” I’ve seen some really vague answers out there, and it’s always kind of bothered me. People kind of indicate that power is sort of like, slow, grinding lifts and strength is somehow quick, explosive lifts.

But really, what I think of it, from an engineering stand point, is that “strength” is the resistance to breakage or damage, from shear or torquing forces. And power is the ability to affect something else–in lifting you could apply the term as one’s ability to get some mass to move. (In real engineering terms, “power” is often given as a measure of heat that comes off of a system when work happens, and “work” is the measure of movement).

Looking at the Wikipedia entries is interesting for the multiple uses of these terms. One of the definitions of “strength” in humans and animals indicates that “physical strength” is “the ability of a person to exert force on physical objects using muscles.” The rest of the article looks a little sloppy to me (and is, in fact, a stub). I suppose this bears more investigation. I’m sure there’s some agreed upon formal definitions in kinesiology or somewhere. But who, really, is the authority for this stuff?

So, in any case, when I’m talking about making sure I’m strong enough to lift something safely, I’m indicating that I want to be able to have the ability to apply force whilst making sure my frame (joints, connective tissues, etc.) will not fail (break, damage, misalign, etc.) when I’m applying that force. To me, that’s as important in strength training as simply the ability to move a mass.


The PT was the basic PTTP, where I start with an overhead lift, then do the deadlifts, then go back to the overhead, etc. I did this for three cycles. Oh, and after discovering my counting error on the first lift, I took the extra weight off, and replaced the 10 kg disks with 11 lb disks, for a total of 331 lbs. A bit safer and more manageable right now for my second dl session in a while. I haven’t decided on a final goal, yet, except I want to work back up to an easy, safe four wheels. I’ll see how I feel then. In between the other sets I managed one set of jackknife push ups, then finished off with them and some stretching.

Looked a little something like this:

5 jackknife push ups

3 each side, two-hands anyhow (32/16 kg)
1 dl (375 lbs)
2 dl (331 lbs)

3 each side, two-hands anyhow (32/16 kg)
3 dl (331 lbs)

5 jackknife push ups

4 each side, two-hands anyhow (32/16 kg)
4 dl (331 lbs)

5 jackknife push ups


Oh, and for an example of the two-hands anyhow:

I did some searching on YouTube, and there are quite a few variations on it. This was close to what I did, except I kept using the same hand with the heavy weight for several reps, then switched hands. Less complex for me that way.


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Title inspired by both Hallowe’en and my latest PT. πŸ˜€

But first–last Sunday was a brief, simple bodyweight workout that was basically a 10×3. 10 chin ups, 10 push ups, 10 abs. Rinse and repeat for a total of three cycles, with run-stepping “over the line” (sort of a run in place, but with high-stepping back-and-forth as if over a low wall or log or something) in-between some of the sets. With variations for the type of set (for instance, one set of the chin ups were actually medium grip pull ups, and all were advantage levered by having my feet propped up on a nearby ladder); 20 reverse crunches, etc.

Today’s PT was a return to some straight-up strength work, inspired by the release of Pavel Tsatsouline’s new book, a revamped and expanded Power To The People, called Power To The People Professional. Don’t know if I’ll bother getting this one–we’ll see.

But the ad made me hungry to go back to the ultra-simple “lift rock, set rock down, ugh” technology of the earlier PTTP, which I liked, and has it’s place. Came at the right time, too, because I had already been thinking about adding that component back into the mix.

As a martial artist and fencer, my primary goal is explosive, but lasting strength; combining the ability to keep exploding in lunges or strikes again and again, (whilst keep good form and precision) with the need to be able to subdue and/or lift potentially strong, heavy partners (the aiki in me says “partners” vice “opponents” πŸ™‚ )–sometimes in slow grinds.

So that’s why I do a lot of “strength-endurance” and “Controlled Fatigue Training.” Such as long sets of kettlebelling, for instance…

But I need to vary it for both adaptation, in keeping a good base level of strength/power, and for keeping a good mental attitude (variety, you see, can be the spice of PT life).

Today ended up being a little bit of an “oops,” ‘coz I mis-underestimated ( πŸ™‚ ) the weights I planned on using. The main part of the workout was basically a 5 x 3 (reps by sets) rotating deadlifts with kbell side presses. I hadn’t intended to go too heavy because I still don’t have full power or mobility in my left ankle. I must’ve really cranked it when I sprained it. Also–hadn’t done anything heavy in a while, esp deadlifts.

Pre-Fatigue (or the “Neuro-muscular synaptic pre-facilitation phase,” as I like to call it)

5 min, 30 sec “on”/30 sec rest, 2 handed swing kbell (32 kg)

Core (or, “The Workout”)

2 deadlifts, oly bar (353 lbs)
3 deadlifts, oly bar (309 lbs)
5 side presses, each side, kbell (32 kg/72 lbs)

5 deadlifts, oly bar (309 lbs)
5 side presses, each side, kbell (32 kg/72 lbs)

5 deadlifts, oly bar (309 lbs)
5 side presses, each side, kbell (32 kg/72 lbs)


5 kettlebell reaches, each side (32 kg/72 lbs)

Before the deads sets, I would practice a quick version of what in qigong is called “packing”-type breathing. That seemed to pump some instant energy into me.

Certainly for some of you monsters out there, that 353 dead looks pretty pipsqueaky. But keep in mind, I hadn’t trained for it in a while. And I mean a loooooooooong while, and I was intending to be easy on my ankle and foot. I didn’t do any real calculations when setting up, I just started throwing some plates on the bar; “Hey, that looks good.” Didn’t really in the factor of the 45 lb bar weight. I was thinking I’d just hit it somewhere in the 270-280 range to keep it light.

So when I did grab the bar the first time, it seemed a bit heavier than I anticipated (@ 353 lbs it would be), though manageable. I definitely felt it in my lower back after a couple. So, thinking of the better part of valor, I took the two end plates off (22 kg each), and reset. And man–it felt practically light after that! Which is cool. So that’s where I kept it.

This kind of grind workout does feel different than the slam-bang, explosive, strength-endurance that I do. For one thing, although I definitely felt the work, I was barely sweating. The long kbell slams or bodyweight drills usually leave me in a puddle of sweat, and sometimes bring on a titch of nausea. After this, I just felt a little worked, and ready to go do something more than just sit and wait for my world to come back.

Well, all-in-all, it was a good, refreshing workout, and I look forward to some more basic strength work. And in the short term… heading over to the Y and some good steam, etc., followed by breakfast. Another fasting day today; yesterday was of necessity (a story for later perhaps), and today I just worked straight through, no bother to breakfast or lunch.


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