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So, now I’m pretty much packed up and ready to head back home tomorrow. Been out at the Springs again for the last week and a half. Pretty busy time here, too.

Got a classroom session learning about fly fishing last Thursday, followed up by the field portion the following Saturday. That was quite… interesting. It was a long day in the out doors; standing in a freezing stream from about 0900 to 1430 (a partial fasting day) whilst being buffeted by constant 25 mph winds, and the occasional snow/sleet/rain. But a good day out of doors, nonetheless. I’m seriously thinking of taking this up as a recreation and excuse to get outdoors when I get back home.

I went up to a cliff dwellings site up in Manitou Springs and crawled all over it. Pretty cool.

PT-wise, I was pretty active, this time. I’ve learned *not* to PT the first day or two out here. When I first started coming out here, I thought it would be best to acclimate by immediately hitting the gym, sometimes even before doing any unpacking except for the PT gear. I figured that would stimulate my system to adapt to the altitude quicker. But, it seemed that I always ended up getting bad headaches and super-dry sinuses after doing that.

So, I backed off, rested a couple of days, and boom… little or none of the symptoms of altitude problems (and–it is super-dry out here in Colorado). I don’t know if it’s a coincidence, or if I’ve finally adapted pretty well, and only slightly detuned after not being here for a couple of months, or, if indeed it was the resting a couple of days that did it. But hey, if and when I come back, I’ll use the same strategy.

After those couple of days of rest, I hit the gym in the morning and did a basic PT. Started with 20 minutes of intervals on the recumbent stationary bike, then jumped up for the first half of the UAW (Ultimate Aerobic Workout–now that I think about it, it should be called the Ultimate AN-aerobic Workout…), which takes about 15-20 minutes of lactic acid-building effort.

After a day off or so, I did another morning PT, following a Tabata protocol, using the GYMBOSS for the 20 sec on/10 sec off, for 8 rounds… and doing four cycles of that. I started with pulldowns on the cable machine, switched over to ballistic push ups on the ab bench (using the bench to do non-standard hand positioning push ups), then hit the floor for eight rounds of abs of different stripes, and finished up with jumping lunges. THAT was a tough one, lemme tell ya. Another guy was there, and we finished up around the same time. He noticed my training shoes (the Asics wrestling shoes) and the way I was training, and asked if I was a wrestling coach… 🙂

Saturday was the all-day outdoor adventure, which, though it sounds easy, ended up being fairly taxing.

Sunday found me hiking all about the cliff dwellings, and Monday’s treat was a morning raid similar to the earlier Tabata day. For some fun, I used the cable machine to do clean and jerks this time, and varied the other exercises somewhat.

As it was a fasting day, I went ahead and did an afternoon session, too, taking a Tabata run/walk for the first eight rounds, then recovered for a long walk, interspersed occasionally with a run along the way. I ended going a ways up from my hotel, then found a nice park (Monument Valley Park, I think), then back “home.” Just about 2.26 miles or 3.64 klicks. Not a killer, just something to keep me busy and warm.

So, I’m looking at getting one more in tomorrow morning before going in to work, and heading out to the airport after. Maybe that’ll help me relax more for the journey back. We’ll see…

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Simple stuff this morning–back to the basics. Straight out of Pavel’s Power To The People (PTTP). Sometimes I just like to do something simple and raw, and that’s what this is. Pure power up.

Grabbed the 32 kg kettlebell and did five military presses on the left, then five on the right. Then the long bar for deadlifts. Just three singles. I’m not sure about doing heavy weight in the morning, though. That first time up was a struggle. By the third, though, I pretty easily lofted it. Maybe I need to better prepare for it or something.

Today’s DL was whatever I had left on the bar since last time from a few months ago. Lessee: just 331 lbs., so not super-heavy. But feel-able.

Speaking of feeling… did it with my NationKilt on, to see how that goes. Even though it’s already plenty warm today, that bar went up *under* the kilt, and let’s just say–that bar is *chilly*!! O.O

😀

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Friday night was a good longsword session–my first after the LASIK and having no glasses. So naturally, Chris had us do exercises where in particular, we were not *supposed to use a mask*… 🙂

I agreed with his reasoning; don’t go full speed, but you can’t use the mask as an excuse. You *must* feel some threat, which really does change the dynamic of the play. When there is explicit protection, it’s too easy to get wrapped up in just single-cheeking (“half-assing”) the movement, and getting hit. Without the artificial pro, you get a real sense of “you’d better do it right.” And I think it worked for the most part.

I’m okay with this line of thinking, and pretty used to acting as if it were real with or without the protection on. But I think it was, well… eye-opening for the younger students. In fact, right now, other than Chris and me, the other students are in High School and even Junior High. So, they often fall into a bit of a sort of laziness. Chris has been doing different drills to drive home the real martial nature of the experience, and hopefully, it’s helping.

As far as for me doing it without glasses for the first time–it was an interesting experience, but exactly opposite of what I expected. I expected to be super cautious, flinching at every move at my face. Instead, I felt calmer, even sometimes letting the opponent’s waster directly touch my face without even a wobble or a blink. Hmm. I know that I’ve always been aware of having the glasses, and getting them hit–apparently I was more afraid of hurting the glasses than myself. I know also that for me, rain and wet meant a hassle. Not because I’m particularly afraid of water, but because I needed to keep the glasses dry, because drops of water, etc. make it really hard to see to do things, like drive, etc.

There you go.

Saturday morning was a hot, beautiful one, so I made it a point to head out to the driving range early. After that, I ended up getting some brunch, as it had been a fasting day yesterday. Because I spend so much time on the road to and from work, for the last few years I’ve made it a point to not schedule anything early on Saturdays, because I just wanted to get up, putter around, and not have any demands put on me. I could get everything going once that happened.

However, often by the time I would get going, it would push everything back later in the day and sort of create more hassle. I’m taking back my mornings on Saturday, now, and have decided to get things going early, *then* backing off. So if I can get something going early–exercise, work around the house, etc., then I can back off and be more productive. I know that sounds intuitive to a lot of people, but then, a lot of people don’t have to drive one and a half to two hours to work in the morning. And then back, getting home in time to maybe look at the TV for an hour then go to bed.

I was looking at getting a hard workout in later in the evening, but that plan was aborted, and I ended up meeting some friends for food in the evening, then walking around Old Town Fredericksburg just sauntering and smoking cigars. So–I’m glad I got the golf range going in the morning. Sun, and a little light exercise. And some desperately needed practice! 🙂

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That’s “WU,” as in “Wake Up.” Used often in the military as you’re counting down the days ’til you leave, as in, “I’ve only got 12 days and a WU, man, and I’m outta here!”

I’m using it here to denote a morning PT used to start your day. 🙂

Today’s wake up was a casual jaunt over to the Y for a quick sauna and jacuzzi, preceded nicely with some quick stretching and 10-15 minutes on the bike for literally, a warm up for the day.

I started on a recumbent stationary bike, a new one I’ve never tried before. It’s so sophisticated that it actually has armrests–like a sofa! And it’s got some complex button scheme for punching up a workout. After a few minutes of that I hopped over to the bike next to it, one of those “spinning” bikes. Nice and simple. Got some good breathing going on and cleared my ears a little bit. That’s always seemed to happen on a bike, when I’m going good. My ears sort of pop and open up. It’s a great feeling.

Then, like I said, a quick sauna and jacuzzi session (no steam room today). Shower, shave, and style (the hair… 🙂 ), and then I’m off to work! Wheee!

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Keeping my promise to myself, I did the PT thing this morning, after a morning hot tea (white jasmine tea–the last bag).

It was fairly intense; I definitely was spouting sweat and getting some breathing in.

Simple Tabata protocol for kettlebells and some bodyweight stuff. At first, I thought my GYMBOSS had had it. It was blank, and wouldn’t turn on–I put a new battery in it, and it still wouldn’t turn on. Then I happened to notice the little “REBOOT” indent in the side. I took a paperclip and applied it, and voila! It turned right back on. Makes me think I wasted a battery… 😦

So, I had that going for me…

Started off with eight rounds of 20 seconds doing jerks with the big bell (32 kg). You know the drill–20 sec left hand, 10 sec rest, 20 sec right hand, etc. for eight cycles. That only really amounts to four cycles a hand. But, oddly enough, you still feel it… 🙂

That was the first total round. Took a minute rest, then I took the medium bell (24 kg) and did the same operation with LCCJ (long cycle clean and jerk). Minute rest.

Took a break from the kbell thing and did the same protocol for abs, starting with V-ups, then crunches, then alternating crunches, etc. finishing up with four sets of alternating side planks (20 sec each). Minute rest.

Finally, back to the bells for eight cycles with the baby bell (16 kg) doing simple one-handed swings (alternating). I really paid attention to my breathing pattern for this, esp once I hit my groove about half-way through the round. “Leading with the breath,” as the Systema people say. In other words, starting the breath action slightly ahead of the rest of the physical action: start to inhale–swing the bell up… at the height of the swing, start to exhale–drop the bell into the low part of the swing. Repeat. Interesting experience.

At the end, do the cool-down/stretch thing, and it was good. Nice way to start the morning! Again, continuing the fast from yesterday was no problem (broke fast for lunch today).

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Good striking training day on Wednesday with Chris and I.

We started off with lots of fist-pushing, where you press your fist into the other person. That gives you feedback on whether your strike would have any strength and/or penetration into the other person, due to body positioning. It lets you know if you are in a power position or not, and if you are in a position where might actually hurt yourself.

If you’re aligned you will move the other person, and if not, you won’t. Simple, but effective training.

After that, we ramped up the velocity to actually strike each other. This is very important for both the hitter and… “hit-tee.” Again, as the striker, you are given feedback on how well you’re doing, but perhaps even more importantly, you’re learning to be struck, and not phased. As I explained to Chris, there are a couple of points here that bear thinking about.

1) There is actual physiological toughening occurring when you’re being struck repeatedly. But that’s not nearly as important as preparing the nervous system to take physical shocks. As a wrestler, and more importantly, a football player (American-style), you learn to take impact to the body as just part of the game. Impact occurs in every play, and it doesn’t stop you. Watch a football game sometime and you’ll see this.

2) You have to de-personalize the hits, as in a football game. Once you stop taking impacts personally, you will fare much better, though I would almost say that it’s harder than with say, football. Your ego wants to take this personally, because it is a personal, one-on-one hit from someone. But the moment you see it as just a physical act of nature (“this thing just happens,” without emotional context) then you don’t have to have any emotional response such as anger or embarrassment or “why is this happening to me” type feeling sorry for yourself, then you don’t actually feel attacked and can easily shrug it off.

The problem comes when you mirror aggression or whatever, instead of projecting a strong confident frame. If you take it personally, you will project aggression or fear or some other destructive emotion, which will feed into the other person and create a feedback loop that ends in destruction for the both of you.

Instead, smile, laugh and literally shrug it off and not only will you do better handling the strike, you may de-escalate the whole confrontation.

Here’s a pic of a pressure-point that Chris was pressing on at one point in the practice. I call it a “badge of honor.” 🙂

Badge of Honor

Badge of Honor

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So–I’ve been playing with looking for shoes that give the best barefoot feel for working out. Now–I’m aware of the Vibram Five Fingers, and I think they’re darn cool. I found out about them a few years ago, before anybody had really heard about them. Then recently, one of the Longsword fencers (Trey) showed up with them on. He is also a Parkour-er, or free runner, I’m not sure which. Even more recently, I visited my brother and he had gotten a pair (of Five Fingers 🙂 ).

Now–when permitted, I almost always PT shoeless. That started ohhhh, well let’s just say–when I was a kid. My parents got me Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan book series (there are 24 in the series. Betcha didn’t know *that* 🙂 ). I remember running over Christmas break in the snow, for high school wrestling (in combat boots, mind you). Later, in the Navy, I would put a few k down through the cane fields in Okinawa, finish a final sprint, then hit the gym for some weights. But I had a terrible time running unless I took the insoles out of my old, well-used, thin-soled New Balances. It hurt my feet and I got terrible blisters if I didn’t.

Later, I would run sometimes in my Dexter boat shoes. I had those for years, ’til I had to throw them away for getting moldy in my motorcycle’s side bags. Those Dexters, though, were awesome. I took them to ride subs on, and because they were multi-purpose. I could get away with walking around town in casual gear without getting a second glance. But I would also PT the heck outta them.

Even more recently, I got a pair of Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars to fence in. My Vans skateboarding shoes were pretty good for that, but fencing is REALLY hard on shoes. Or maybe that’s just me. I’m not an Olympian, or serious tournamenter, so I didn’t bother buying actual “fencing shoes.” The Converse seem to do pretty well, and I’ve run in them. I like the thin soles. However, I found that I have a hard time just walking around in them because they squeak really bad. Maybe I need to wear them more, but it’s hard to do because the way they’re constructed and the way my foot is shaped creates that really annoying squeak after a few minutes and the sock gets a tad wet with perspiration or ambient moisture. I do like the classic looks, and I might try to futz with them until I get them not to squeak.

Anyway–I’ve run barefoot on-and-off ever since finding the site Running Barefoot a few years ago, and being re-inspired to it by the Born To Run book, I thought I’d head out Saturday for a thin-soled run. I was doing a bunch of web search on the Vibram Five Fingers. I’m interested in them, and as I said, I’ve thought they were really cool. But I’ve been thinking of a way to have something like the Five Fingers, but in a little more conventional package that I can walk around in, maybe got to work in, without dealing the whole gawker phenomenon. Because they are unusual, and they do draw comment.

The other thing or two is that they’re somewhat a pain in the butt to get to. The only way I could get them is to take a day trip up to, say, DC or something, and then, maybe there would be a pair that I would like in the color that I would like. And the fitting must needs be pretty precise, or you’re probably going to be miserable quickly, and for a while. Not to mention, they aren’t free.

So, I was thinking that I really wished that someone made a shoe like the Five Fingers, but without the toes. You know, with one solid front end, so I could wear socks with them if I wanted. Naturally, I thought of my All-Stars, and was thinking about going out to the truck to get them from my fencing bag, to get ready for my run. But still wishing there was something as light and flexy as those Fingers.

Then I had my aha. Finally it dawned on me that I have these el cheapo water socks, or aqua socks, or whatever you all them that I *never* use, because they failed me in their stated mission: light shoes to protect your feet from objects while you’re in water in the wild. My brother Dahood and I got them somewhere, I don’t remember where or exactly what outing they were for, but both of us had heard about these type of shoes, and wanted to try them out. For me, I’d always been a Teva guy, ever since Dahood had brought some back from Jackson Hole, but the problem for me was that Tevas would slip around laterally on your feet even with the straps tight, so that if you put pressure in a sideways direction you could be slipping off of the sole of the sandal which was uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

Also, there was the problem with sand and objects getting in between your feet and the plastic sole. Verrrrrrrrry freekin’ uncomfortable to me, anyway. It seems so easy for stuff to get in there, and then never come out. Very frustrating.

So we heard about these “water dogs” or something like that and decided to get some. Got some pretty cheap ones somewhere–again I don’t remember the where or when right now. Anyway, they turned out to suck–literally. They seemed to suck in the sand, and then would weight down, and then got pretty easy to suck off of your feet. Well, that was my experience anyway.

Back to the present. They had been lying idle for a while now, but I suddenly realized that I had been wanting something like that in an athletic shoe–something with just enough protection so that I wouldn’t be ripping the skin off of my feet. All those years ago I had been fine running around literally all summer barefoot with nothing on but a pair of running shorts, a belt and a belt knife (yeah, I was a weird kid), but the thing that stumped me was when they finally paved our road, the asphalt would burn my feet if I ran on it a bit. I don’t mean so much by heat, but something about the surface made the soles of my feet feel like they were burning at the end of the day. I could handle the dirt/gravel from before, but the new road surface bothered me. I don’t know if it was the consistency, or the chemicals in the material that made it burn so much. My dad and brothers seem to have always had sensitive skin issues. My dad and middle brother’s skin always reacted strongly to touch; they’re skin would swell with just easy impacts, scratches, etc.

I didn’t have that condition so much as extreme discomfort with certain materials against my skin. Wool–ick. Makes itch like crazy. Plastic against my skin almost immediately gives me a slick of sweat. I’ve stopped worrying about Gore-Tex-type materials unless I have a bunch of layers on because they don’t breathe very well for me. I was wearing a Gore-Tex jacket during the summer a few years ago and I was wetter on the inside than I would’ve been from the rain. Same with poly-pro socks and underwear. I’m better off wearing cotton and getting wet, because at least that’ll dry out shortly.

Anyway, I grabbed my water socks, and was excited about my new idea and decided to do some more web research on it. Turns out a few people have hit upon this idea as well. The benefits seem to be pretty good. Not the least of which is that typically, these things are cheap. I’m gaining an appreciation for the the idea of cheap consumables, even though I really admire good craftsmanship normally, and really hate the idea of a throwaway culture. But I’ve noticed that a lot of my good stuff is technically only good for about the same amount of time as the cheap stuff. So that’s something to think about.

Add to that the correlation that Christopher McDougall made in Born to Run that the cheapest shoes (or the oldest shoes) cause the least injury. Now, I’ve been able to keep my shoes a long, looong time. I’ve never replaced them at the recommended times. They seem to last on me–except for fencing. When I fence, it really tears them up. Anything else, though, and I’ve can use them forever. Those Dexters I mentioned before were still usable up to a year or less ago. I got them in… 1993 or so?

Well, long story longer, I found a nifty page from one of the water shoe proponents here. I took the insole out of the shoe, threw on my Smartwool running socks, then the water shoes (“Laguna” is the name on the insole). And went for a run/walk. Not a huge run. But I did a road out here, then around the neighborhood. Because of the constant traffic, and having no paved shoulder or bike lane, I spent a lot of the time in the dirt on the side that has large, sharp gravel in it.

Have to say, they did fine, and so did my feet. Really nice run. I ended up getting a fairly sore achilles tendon on the right leg, but I awoke this morning and it was fine. My left big toe ball joint hurt after I went out that evening and was wearing my Keen sandals. They have a think sole that not flexible and kinda clunky. I love the looks, but they aren’t the most comfortable thing I’ve ever worn, and it does seem like sometimes my feet hurt after wearing them. Today, the ball joint seems to feel okay.

With the Smartwool socks on, it was very comfortable–temperature-wise, and no blisters. I did it very unprogrammed, varying between fast and slow running, and some walking, finally kept to a walk when my achilles tendon started stiffening up. No need to push it, as this was an experimental run with a new type of running gear, and I know that I need to adapt to it. I know there’s good technique in barefoot/thin-sole running, and I’m going to play with that and make sure I’ve got it down.

The shoes are as flat as can be (no heel at all), but had a nice aggressive tread. They are glowing neon green with some blue piping and a white sole. Basically, they look like a Nike Free or some other high-priced “barefoot” running shoe. Read the article for all the benefits versus downsides.

Today’s PT, though, was all about being stationary. I did a typical three rounds of five minutes of kettlebells, with one minute breaks in-between rounds.

Round One
5 minutes
– Snatches, changing hands when needed (16 kg)

Round Two
5 minutes
– LCCJ, changing hands when needed (24 kg)

Round Three
5 minutes
– Jerks, changing hands when needed (32 kg)

Recovery
Systema Active Stretching

You’ll notice that the complexity went down as the weight and elapsed time went up. Just an FYI. I like to play with that variable as well as the time and resistance.

And there’s more to say on the water shoe front. I’m looking around for thin-soled shoes that usable in every day type of garb. We’ll see how that turns out.

Cheers.

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