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Saturday
Sep172011

CrossFit Charlotte - 6th annual Fight Gone Bad

One of the regulars at my YMCA fitness classes told me he was competing in the CrossFit event, "Fight Gone Bad".  This was the 6th annual event, also serving as a fundraiser for three different charities, including the Wounded Warrior Project

I've written about CrossFit before, but as a reminder each workout has a unique name, often in-memoriam of fallen soldiers and servicemen and women.  "Fight Gone Bad" was designed to mimic the physical endurance demands of a mixed martial arts bout, featuring five minutes of work, one minute of recovery, over three rounds. "FGB" got its name after all-time great UFC fighter B.J. Penn undertook the workout one day, and described it afterwards as being much like "a fight gone bad".  The name stuck.

Here's a glimpse at the workout structure:

Three (3) rounds of:

  • Wall-ball, 20/14 pound ball, 10 foot target (Most reps) 
  • Sumo Deadlift High-pull, 75/55 pounds (Most reps)
  • Box Jump, 20" box (Most reps)
  • Push-press, 75/55 pounds (Most reps)
  • Row (Most Calories according to meter)

The weather was much cooler than a normal early September Saturday thanks to the cold front that came in yesterday, but the athletes toughed it out and I saw some tremendous performances. 

I had been debating taking a few breaks from my half-marathon endurance training (races in October and November) to add some Crossfit-style workouts.  Being in this atmosphere has definitely motivated me to get off the spin bike and put the running shoes away once in a while and not to forget mixing in a CrossFit-style workout.  I'll also be adapting the FGB workout for my YMCA classes, beginning next week.

Here's a sample video of "Fight Gone Bad":

Saturday
Mar132010

Staying Fit While You Travel

Rare is the occupation that doesn't take you on the road at least once in a while.  I actually don't travel very often (three times per year or less) however one multiple day road trip can seriously derail your training and your diet if you aren't pro-active. 

For example last year while in Detroit at the NCAA Final Four, I didn't break a sweat the entire five days.  I also became very familiar with the Wendy's a block from our hotel, along with the hospitality food available at the various cocktail functions.  Needless to say, this was NOT the way to handle a road trip.

I was out of town for work last weekend and tried to be much more pro-active with regards to my meals.  I brought several cans of tuna (along with my can opener), a few protein shakes, a jar of natural peanut butter, and a box of multi-grain cereal from Kashi.  Great nutritional meals are focused around a lean protein (the tuna), and some combination of a complex carb (Kashi cereal), and a healthy fat source (peanut butter).  I've also become so starchy carb-sensitive that even one peice of white bread will basically knock me out for an hour.  When I had access to hospitality suite food, I had two hamburger patties, both with a slice of cheese and ditched the bun.  Maybe not the ideal meal, but when you're on the go and eating time is at a premium, sometimes it's all about minimizing the damage (ie - starchy carbs, breads, potatoes, and sugars).

We all have to do the best we can with foods we like when traveling, and obviously luggage space and travel method play a big role.  Here's a blog post by figure competitor Barbara Mencer about her efforts to bring foods on a travel trip to avoid completely wrecking her nutrition while away from home.

I also learned from a few Twitter friends who were traveling to Columbus, OH for the Arnold Sports Festival about freezing chicken breasts and veggies to bring along to the hotel.  Like Barbara Mencer, I learned first hand how expensive it can be relying on a hotel for too many of your meals. 

I did not get to work out last weekend, mostly due to the strenuous schedule that was kept during the actual work portions of the weekend.  Off-time was precious and had to be spent recouperating for the next day.  Most hotels will have a fitness room of SOME kind, obviously some hotels will feature better equipment than others.  I've reviewed body weight workouts previously, which can be done anywhere (even out in the parking lot if you can find a solitary space). 

I had no idea about using the actual hotel room as a make-shift workout facility.  Greg Plitt (basically one of the top 3 or 4 fitness models in the business) has a great video on his members website about using your hotel room as a gym when on the road.  Here's a preview:

As I have hopefully outlined above, there is no legitimate reason to make the same lazy mistakes I made a year ago in Detroit.  With a little preparation and creativity, there is no reason to let a brief road trip derail your fitness goals.

Sunday
Feb212010

Tabata Complex: Cable Bands

For those who are unfamiliar with a Tabata workout, it's essentially a series of full-intensity bursts (:20-30 usually) with VERY brief rest periods (roughly :10 at most).  There can be between 4 and 5 different exercises, and one rotation through completes one Tabata circuit.

Tabatas are a great way to get an intense workout in when crunched for time.  People exercising on their lunchbreak who need to get their heart rate up and break a good sweat without time to spend pounding away on the treadmill can see real benefits.

Here's a description of a typical Tabata workout structure:

  • 5 minutes of warm-up
  • 8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest
  • 2 minutes cool-down

Tabata-style workouts are also beneficial when traveling or on vacation, since if there is no real gym access, you may only have room in your travel bags for one singular peice of equipment.  These can obviously be done in a body weight format with drills like burpees, mountain climbers, and plyo jumps for example, but here is an excellent video of Baltimore-area trainer Nick Tumminello demonstrating an upper body Tabata circuit with cable resistence bands.

Here's another with one of his clients, Alli McKee doing similar exercises:

Saturday
Feb062010

Should I stretch before I workout?

Answer: No.

Really. No.  You shouldn't stretch before you workout. 

Without getting into the science of it all (there is plenty of scholarly writing available on Google), think of your body as a car. 

Now this is a timely metaphor since it is less than 20 degrees outside and all of our cars are covered in ice.  Each morning before work, all of us take an extra 3-5 minutes to scrape the ice off the windshield and let the car warm up before heading out.  You wouldn't take the car on a stop-start trip, back and forth in the parking lot.  You might let it idle in park, or rev up the engine until the little heat meter moves a few centimeters up from "C".

Warming up your body serves the same purpose.  Another metaphor would be to stick a bandaid in the freezer for an hour.  Then pull it out and try to stretch it.  Odds are it probably won't be very flexible.  Scary to think your hamstrings and deltoids work the same way.  Take that same rubber band out of the freezer and stick it in hot water or in the microwave for a little bit.  Chances are it stretches much more easily. 

There are a number of ways to get warm (jogging, body weight squats, jumping rope, burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, etc).  A "dynamic warmup" is basically a movement-specific way to get the blood circulating and the heart rate up prior to your key exercise. 

One of the biggest life-long values I received while running track in college was the art of the dynamic warm-up for both the legs and core/abs.  Here's a few videos demonstrating exercises that fall in the dynamic warm-up category:

Sprint Warm-Up:

GPP (General Physical Preparedness):

 

Sunday
Jan172010

What do you think of P90X?

People often ask me "Hey, what do you think of P90X?  I've seen the infomercial a dozen times and was thinking about getting it."

Well, my personal thoughts on P90X are pretty simple, so I'll try to keep it simple here.

In a nutshell it looks like a pretty good program.  I should start by saying I have not purchased P90X but I do have a few friends who have used the program with varying results.  Being curious about the structure, I asked a few questions and looked through some of the materials to get a fuller understanding than just what we see on television.

The program works for many of the same reasons any other workout program would work: intense circuit-style cardio program interspersed with full-body resistence training and a fairly clean nutritional approach.  Any fitness approach that incorporates these elements will, in a general sense give you success (body fat reduction, increase in personal fitness levels).

The "host" and creator, Tony Horton also ads a lot to the program.  He has a high energy level which should keep even the most "motivationally-challenged" people upbeat during the workout.  He's also in great shape and to me, I'd have trouble buying into someone's workout advice if they aren't in great shape themselves.

My .02 cents: For those who want to do more than just go jogging once in a while and desire something faster-paced that works their muscles as well as their cardio system, yet don't have a gym or fitness club membership (and don't want one), then P90X is probably a solid investment.