Monday, June 30, 2008

Training in the Heat

It's been hot lately. Really hot. Like North Pole hot. Okay, maybe not that hot, relatively, as there is still more snow in our mountains than there is covering the pole, but hot.

Dealing with heat is an entire other training paradigm. Environmental conditions force stress on the body just like training does. When you change conditions you need to account for it or you'll overtrain quicker. I wrote an article a couple weeks back on avoiding heat exhaustion. Here is is.

For extreme training it's even tougher. It's hard enough to fuel for threshold training and competing when conditions are good. When they're bad it's much trickier. of course, there are examples of athletes succumbing to the environment in stories throughout the ages. And it still happens, even with today's knowledge.

Of course, the main thing to consider is hydration. But what's different for athletes than normal folks is the extreme amount in which you need to fuel yourself differs. Water and salt needs can far exceed the RDA and your "8 recommended glasses" per day. Try sticking to this amount during an Ironman on a hot day and you'll wind up in the med tent, if you're lucky. You'll probably die. During a typical bike race during summer you'll go through between 1,000 and 2,000 mg of sodium per hour. And you'll be unable to drink enough water to stay hydrated either, which is at least 3 16 ounce water bottles per hour!

Enabling yourself to stay cool is another factor. During Floyd Landis' attach on stage 17 in the Tour de France and couple of years ago he dumped ice water over his head constantly (there were something like 150 water bottles in his support car). Each time he did the wattage he was able to produce increased. Unfortunately, most of us don't have someone to follow us around with ice water during the summer, so staying hydrated is vital, as is giving yourself some time to adapt to weather conditions.

Anyway, all this stuff is harder when the temps first change. It takes you body at least 5 days--and longer to become fully conditions--to adapt to hot (or cold) weather change. So during these transition seasons training can seem miserable, and you need to be careful.

We've been putting in some good heat training lately. I've been riding most days, often during the heat of the day, as well as drinking and eating about 10 times as much salt and water as normal. Still, I'm on the verge of cramping during the end of every long ride. Romney and I put in 6 hours on a 100 degree day on the tandem and have felt pretty wasted ever since. But the body is adapting to the heat and each day I'm affected less and less. Soon I'll be able to hammer in the heat like a polar bear.

pic: Romney hydrates atop Emigration Pass

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


This morning I overslept on purpose. Yesterday, I spent a good part of my work day researching sleep and, after what I'd found, getting back in bed seemed smart instead of lazy.

Most people, especially athletes, appreciate the importance of sleep. The greatest cyclist in history, Eddie Merckx, once said, "the Tour is won in bed," and our own seven time Tour winner once credited his organization that gave him an extra hour in bed each night as the biggest improvement he'd made in his race prep. Athletes are probably the biggest proponent of napping who are no longer infants. When your life depends on recovering from exercise, being asleep is almost always preferable to being awake.

Oddly enough, I wasn't the one writing a sleep article yesterday. I was doing a news piece and Joe was writing on sleep. But, serendipitously, I ended up having a hard time finding good health headlines that weren't about sleep. In the last two weeks, four studies on sleep have hit the wires. Since we didn't run them because we already had a sleep article, I'll post them here.

The first three all focused on college students. Two independent studies showed that it helped with better grades. In one, the difference wasn't the amount of time slept but the difference between those who studied in the morning vs those who studies at night. Turns out your brain works better when you first wake up. Logical, since you recover as you sleep. The third was a study on female depression and sleep and, as you may have guessed, those who slept better were far less likely to have mental issues.

Finally--as if we needed it--another study was published showing how much sleep helps athletes recover. When you're asleep your body releases different hormones than when you're awake. There are five stages of sleep and it's imporant that you hit each one as many times as possible. The more you rest the quicker you recover. If you can sleep enough it can be like taking steroids. In fact, dreaming about taking steroids might be as effective as the real thing.

When you're training harder you dream more. I'm a big dreamer. So big, in fact, that some people think the alternate world I sleep in is weird. There are places I visit so much in dreams that I often forget they aren't real. I've developed entire climbing areas in my dreams and have frequented some of them many many times. These places are so vivid that when I'm considering where to climb I'll often consider them until I catch myself and realize they don't exist. It's pretty cool because I get to live two seperate lives: one when I'm awake and one when I'm asleep.

Anyway, throughout the winter, when I wasn't training much, my dreams were blank. I either didn't dream or didn't remember what I'd dreamt. Since I've begun this round of X, and especially lately doing doubles most days, all of these places have come back. So not only does exercise make my real life better, it gives me an entire other life to play in as well. Now that I think about it, I wonder which Tour Eddie Merckx was referring to?

pic: Romney and Bartleby get fitter.


Nothing, NOTHING, is as important as motivation when it comes to getting fit. With enough motivation everything will fall into place eventually. Without it, all the science in the world won't help you. This, above all else, is the main piece of advise I try and give my clients. If you stay psyched you'll make progress. It's pretty much that simple.

This morning I re-read "Lance and the Dipped in Ding-dong Doodle Down in Dixie," Bob Roll's account of Lance's now famous training camp in North Carolina. This camp came on what was, reportedly (at least in LA's "It's Not About The Bike"), the pinnacle of The Texan's decision as to whether he would continue to be a bike racer or quit. He had recently left the peloton in Europe and was milling around Austin trying to decide what he wanted to do with his life. Apparently, these camps were either going to re-stoke his motivation or kill it.

From Bobke's account he seems pretty stoked right off the bat. I suppose this is how Armstrong always does things, a 100% effort or nothing. There were there to train, all day every day, rain or shine. And that's what they did. This happened well before he'd won a Tour de France; a probably before he'd even thought it possible to do such a thing. All he was doing was training like a madman to see how much progress he could make on a wattage meter is short period of time. Bobke's account showed clearly what sets the Texan apart from everyone else. Compared to Roll, a seasoned pro, the level of desire and commitment is night and day. Lance does everything, train, plan, eat, recover, like a man possessed. You can't help but feel lazy. Bobke's doing the training with him and even he feels lazy by comparison.

No one was more motivated than Armstrong; and that's why he won (well, there's talent but all of his competitors had that too). Reading this stuff always motivates me to do more. Because, like Floyd Landis says, you can always do more. No matter how tired, how sore, how sick or bored or in pain you are, you can always do more. And this leads to his mantra of "...who trains the hardest and the most wins."

Reading this motivated me to jump on the hippie bike for 4 hours of climbing intervals in the heat. I've been training for heat lately. It's been almost impossible not to. But that's a different topic.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Mind Over Mountains

My friend Hans is up to something pretty cool. He and Yuji Hirayama are trying to break the Huber brothers' speed record on The Nose. This wouldn't be big news without the back story, since Hans and Yuji held the record for years and Hans has held it numerous times with different partners and is probably more synonymous with speed climbing than anyone alive. But this attempt is different.

A Brief History of Speed

In the late 80s, John Bachar and Peter Croft did The Nose route on El Cap and The DNWF of Half Dome in the same day. This ascent was so ridiculously ahead of its time that there wasn't a big line up to try and repeat the feat but it was really the catalyst for a younger generation to begin attempting to push wall climbing into a new era.

Prior to this, speed was mainly "for safety" in the mountains. In traditional mountaineering, the faster you went the less likely the weather was going to change and force you into a life-threatening epic. Speed on rock walls meant, mainly, that you might get to sleep in your own bed at night. So speed ascents were basically nothing but good old fashioned competition, something most climbers weren't too overt about.

The Nose

The Nose route on El Cap was different. Because it was such an important route in the history of climbing each new style of ascent was deemed a milestone. When John Long, Billy Westbay, and Jim Bridwell cracked it in less than 24 hours it was major news. Ditto when Lynn Hill became the first person to free climb it.

Enter Hans Florine

With a background in college sports, Hans came into the sport with a zest for competition—something that seemed to offend many of the sport’s traditional stallwarts. It wasn't so much about winning or losing but just getting out there, pushing a bit, and trying to obliterate what was thought possible. With various partners, Hans and Croft took turns breaking each others times up The Nose, which essentially started the sport of speed climbing in America (the Russians had been doing it for years but with different objectives). Eventually, Florine and Croft combined forced and set a time on The Nose that was so fast it was ignored for years.

In the mid 90s there was a small fringe group dedicated to blasting up walls as quickly as possible. Nearly every route on El Cap was climbed "in a push" (meaning you climb ‘til you get to the top no matter how long it took--no bivy gear, which was exemplified by Hans' license plate the reads "no bivys"). Eventually, a motivated Valley local named Dean Potter set his sights on Hans and Peter's Nose record and beat it.

He and Hans spend the next half a decade in a celebrated competition for speed records in Yosemite. Potter played the old school soul climber. He claimed to eschew competition but was, in fact, so competitive that when he heard of Hans' attempt to be the first person to solo The Nose and Half Dome in a day he drove half way across the country to get the jump on him. When Hans finished, thinking he was the first, he found out Dean had pipped him by a few hours.

The culmination of all of this was still in The Nose record. Potter and Timmy O’Neil beat Hans’ time twice. Finally, Hans teamed up with an ex-sport climbing superstar who had turned his sites on free climbing big walls, Japan's Yuji Hirayama. He and Hans ended up obliterating The Nose record. Their time was so audacious to even consider breaking that the competition again disappeared. Dean set his sites on different objectives elsewhere while Hans became a dad and got an office job.

The Uber Hubers

This German duo had come to the Valley in the mid 90s to see what their sport climbing skills could accomplish in climbing's most notable theatre. When the dust settled they had, again, changed the game of wall climbing. By free climbing, or at least attempting to and treating traditional aid routes as free climbs, they were the driving force between turning the bastion of "wall climbing" into a mere crag. Hot shot climbers from around the globe followed suit and many of El Cap's classic aid routes are now grade IV free climbs, provided you have the requisite fitness and skill.

After a decade the Hubers’ hall of fame tick list had one obvious omission: the speed record on The Nose. They set their sites after it full bore, and even made a film about it before the record was broken, likely assuming they'd get it once they set their minds to it. Turns out that film took years to complete. They did finally break the record. Then they broke it again. Here's a trailer for their film:

Here is a list of speed ascents of The Nose:

1975 - the FIRST one day ascent was made, took about 17 hours and 40 minutes.(Billy Westbay, Jim Bridwell, and John Long)
1979~ - the route was done in under 13 hours.(Thierry ' Turbo' Renault + other)
1984 - the route was done in under 11 hours.(Dave Shultz, and John Middendorf, also Duncan Critchley and Romain Vogler)
1986 - the route was done in 9:17. (John Bachar and Peter Croft, they then went and climbed the NWRR on Half Dome)
1988 - first NIAD Beta/description written by John Middendorf.
1989 - first one day solo ascent was made.( Steve Schneider )
1990 - 8:06 became the record then 6:40,(Steve Schneider and Hans Florine, then Dave Shultz and Peter Croft,- respectively)
1991 - 6:01 became the record then 4:48,(Andres Puhvel and Hans, then Dave and Peter, - respectively)
1992 - 4:22 became the record.,(Peter and Hans)
2001 - 3:59:35 became the record, then 3:57:27, then 3:24:20,(Timmy Oneil and Dean Potter, then Jim Herson and Hans, then Timmy and Dean again.)
2002 - 2:48:50 became the record,(Yuji Hirayama and Hans)
2007 - 2:48:35 became the record, then 2:45:45, (Alexander and Thomas Huber set and broke their own record)

The Desk Jockey

Each climber mentioned, along with many others, has had a hand in shaping how the public views El Capitan. When Warren Harding first summited it in 1958 a TV crew was there to capture "the impossible". Now it's turned into a venue for rising stars to prove their skills by free climbing something that was once considered perilous just to ascend using any type of style or equipment necessary. To make your mark on El Cap these days requires that you be a full time climber who dedicates your life to training. When Hill free climbed The Nose she spent a year training specifically for it. When Tommy Caldwell free climbed The Dihedral Wall, perhaps the most continuously demanding rock climb in the world, his training was Herculean. He would get up before dawn and spend hours working out moves high on El Cap. Then he would come down, eat, and go bouldering to gain more specific strength.

Once again, Florine seeks to break the mold. But instead of training in the Valley, where he was once a resident, he’s been slaving away in an office. It's been a long time since he's done anything noteworthy in climbing, or even athletically (at least compared to what he used to do). In fact, just last fall he called me to see if I'd like to see how many of “these trendy endurance events” we could complete off the couch. Now he's found the perfect carrot. His beloved record has been broken. His old partner is still game. And now he can become the first weekend warrior to hold a world class record.

Yuji flew in from Japan on the 22nd. He and Hans reconed the route yesterday in 4:48. Hans is now back at work while Yuji probably recovers from jet lag. On Friday, they recon one more time. On Sunday, they go after the record.

This reminds me of an old Sports Illustrated cover from when Ali was challenging Larry Holmes for the heavyweight title at 42. The title was “Don’t count the old man out.” Of course, Ali got pummeled. The romantic in me is still giving Hans a fighting chance.

You'll find more info and can follow the attempt at:

pic: Yuji above the Great Roof

Friday, June 20, 2008

Good Old Fashioned Weight Training

I've been incredibly sore all week. Part of this is from doing a race as my first run of the year. The other part is from picking up the intensity of my weight training workouts. In the intro to Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps Tony says, "(sic)It's just good old fashioned weight training 101 that's been lost today with a lot of gidgits and gadgets that don't work." It's not the other training doesn't work, exactly, but he's right in that many new age trainers subscribe to the "we used to do it all wrong so we must do things completely differently" mentality. This, of course, is nonesense. Sure, we've refined how to train over the years but some things are just as simple as ever. For examaple, if you get after it and pump a bit of iron you will get stronger.

To explain why in more depth, here's an article I just wrote.

Back & Biceps and C,S,& Ts are not exactly "weight training 101". These are kick-ass workouts that will have a deconditioned athlete begging for mercy by the second (of many many) rounds. The other day after Back & Bis my biceps were so pumped that I could barely wash my hair. Reed had a comment that explains just how sadistic these workouts are.

"You begin Chest, Shoulder, and Tris with those slow motion push-ups and get so pumped that you're dying on every set during the rest of the workout."

Certainly, one-arm push-ups or plyo push-ups, which follow each other near the end of this workout, take the cake for the cruelest single exercise in the P90X series. At this stage of this workout both of these sets are absolutely brutal. You even see Phil--who is generally just as strong as Tony--using about a quarter of Tony's weight on one of the latter exercises in this program and he's just dying. This shows the difference between doing this workout in its entirety and doing it in parts as Tony is.

pics: Arnold and Franco back in the day. Pumping iron did okay at sculpting these guys and, as Franco shows below, this muscle wasn't all just for show.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


When I'm doing a doubles routine a skip a lot of the more aerobic-oriented workouts in X because I'm generally getting heaps of this type of training on my bike. Yesterday my legs weren't recovered from the race so I opted for Kenpo instead of Plyo. It felt better than it ever has. My kicks (which suck due to lack of flexibility) were stronger and had a lot more snap than usual. It also seemed to really help loosen up my leg muscles. So even though it was a random substitution it ended up being the perfect workout.

The X doesn't have any traditional cardio work. Each of the cardio-oriented workouts focus on performing something. There is no idle bopping around. This throws a lot of people who've been taught by the media to think that cardio training is nothing but low-level movement. In fact, "cardio" isn't a type of training at all. We just use those titles because people are taught that they "need cardio".

You need to train your cardiovascular system. It's vital. But you never need to do a "cardio" workout because every type of exercise trains it in one way or another. In fact, the most effect training for this system--if you had to just choose one way--would be doing anaerobic training sets in an interval format, which is what we call circuit training. That is because is puts the most stress on your heart during the actual sets, which then beats fast in order to recover for the next one. This is why the "cardio" workouts in X always have some sort of human performance element. They are meant to stress different muscles and connective tissues in different ways. They are not meant to give you low-level aerobic training.

What we're generally taught to be "cardio" training is actually low-level aerobic training, or more intense interval training that targets your lactate threshold. Both have a place in an exercise program but neither is as time efficient as circuit training.

In relation to X, traditional aerobics are what we'd call a aerobic workout and would mainly be used for either recovery or foundation work. It trains your aerobic system to function well but does very little musclular breakdown. Xers should have done this type of training during their foundation, when they were building up the fitness to tackle X.

Higher level interval training, similar to what Chalene does in Turbo Jam, causes more breakdown and trains your VO2 max and lactate threshold. While highly effective this style training leads quickly towards a plateau if not interspersed with other things targeting different energy systems. Chalene mixes variations in to keep this from occuring but, at some point, you need to create more breakdown using resistance to keep your results curve going up. This is why she's created ChaLEAN, which is weight training program.

The X cardio workouts would be catagorized as the above but vary in intensity so much that some are more like circuit training. Plyo, for sure, creates very high level breakdown but even Kenpo and Cardio X will max your heart rate during segments. Essentially, there are no easy workouts in X (except X Stretch), which is why you should recover between rounds doing something else, like long easy bike rides or dusting off those old Richard Simmons tapes.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Block III

My legs were pretty cooked from yesterday's adventure so I began the third 90x block with Back & Biceps and now I'm so pumped that my arms are swollen up like a tick. I've been preferring lately to switch things up by doing Legs & Back on Monday to have the legs more recovered by the weekend. This weekend should be interesting after doing legs on Friday.

This block will be a short three weeks as we're heading off to Tahoe during the middle of that week. Tahoe will be catagorized as a recovery week but I'm thinking that a lot of riding will be happening that may be anything but recovery. Romney and I (well, at least the I part) are excited to tackle Ebbets Pass and its 24 percent grades on our tandem and I'm looking forward to some good hippie bike riding with the lads. With Speedgoat still on the schedule, a couple of peaks are going to need to be bagged as well.

The summer is shaping up and I'm tentatively targeting two good endurance challenges. One is a 170 mile road race, the Tour of Park City. The other is my newer version of the old E100 course. This should set me up to start thinking about next fall's birthday challenge.

This will be the last block of traditional X. With mainly cycling and running on the agenda all of this upper body muscle is mainly for fitness. Of course, who knows when I'll get psyched to do some climbing as well and might use it? I do plan to do a forth block in July that features more specific sports training along with a lot of P90X Plus.

First things first. The next two-point-five weeks will focus on finishing strong in traditional X and streamling the diet. I plan to drop a few pounds between now and July, so I'll axe the junk, eat as I should, and maybe suffer a little bit.

Here's the schedule:

Week 1,2

M - Back & Biceps, ARX
T - Plyometrics & hard ride
W - Chest, Shoulders, Arms, ARX & hilly run
T - Yoga X & hard ride
F - Legs & Back
S,S - outside stuff

Week 3

M - Legs & Back, ARX
T - Yoga X, hard ride
W - Chest, Shoulders, Arms, ARX, hard run
Off to Tahoe...

Diet Rules: nothing is off just yet except binging and complete junk food. I'll keep my calories just under what I'm buring. So instead of bowls of cereal I'll have a bowl. Instead of a smothered burrito it'll be plain. Instead of beers I'll have a beer. That should be about all it'll take to take me to the next level. Fitness is not far off right now. I think Bob, Josh, and Reed are all in, too, which is an odd serendipity. Maybe even Romney. It'll be easier this way, since we'll all have Tahoe as the focus.

pic: workin' on the Burt Reynolds look. I may need to dye that chest hair before the next photo shoot. And grow a moustache, which goes without saying.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BAM - A Race Report

Since Tony likes to say "bam", it seems fitting that it would be the name of my first event during this round of 90X. My friend Mike told me recently that he needed "an eye opener" to motivate him to train so he had signed up for something that would destroy him. Last weekend I heard about an off-road duathlon called the BAM (for Battle at Midway). Since I hadn't been able to run and had not done a single run this year--since hurting my ankle in India--it didn't seem feasible but I had been getting better and decided to peruse the race web site anyway. As soon as I saw there was a dog division I was sold. If I could run at all, this would be my eye opener.

Not only hadn't I run but I hadn't mountain biked but once, and this hurt as my now 6 week old surgery has me in a state sensitive to jarring movements). Furthermore, I was swapping out my Anasazi frame to turn my "silly" 69er into an actually usable 29" squishy geared bike. Beyond that, I'd never run with Beata. Tuco's beyond his racing years but B would be psyched, for sure. But since I hadn't been running, and Romney doesn't run, well than neither had she--at least over distance with a leash. So my first race of the year would include three milestones: first run of the year, first run with Beata, first ride on my new hippie bike. I think this qualifies it as an eye opener.

Sunday morning we lined up with a small field of dogs behind the main pack of competitors and waited for that cannon to go off. If you're thinking that a cannon might not be the best device to start a race with dogs you'd be right. One dog got away from the owner, who had to chase it down and then run back to the start. Beata was clearly confused but happy. We were running with a pack of dogs and chasing a bunch of people. Woof.

Soon we'd moved ahead of all the dogs and were passing most of the people. B looked a little uncomfortable and kept looking back for other dogs. Around a mile in a couple of dogs pulling their owner made a move and passed us. Beata seemed a little more at ease racing from behind.

By mile two they were a ways out in front and she began to sense what we were doing. Instead of running at my heels she moved up, looked at me, then up the trail. "Want to get 'em?" She looked enthused. We picked up the pace. We were about to catch them when one of the dogs stopped for her morning dump, which thrust us into the lead. B seemed pretty pleased about this and we headed towards the transition near the front of the entire race.

I handed her to Romney and took off on the new hippie ride. With 1,200' of climbing in 12 miles I figured this would make or break the race. By the summit I'd created a gap, which I held all the way to the second transition. Our race was still up in the air, however, since Beata had never run this fast over this much ground. I had no idea how she'd be dealing.

"How's she doing?" I asked entering the transition.

"She's can't wait to run," replied Romney.

Apparently, as the other dogs came in B's eyes where glued out to the course awaiting my return. Romney was stellar as our team's director sportiff. She hydrated B, let Ratso intimidate the competition, and made sure B had taken care of her business so we wouldn't have to stop during the race. As I approached she was fired up to get back out there.

We began the final run slowly. This is always the case in du's as you need to get your "sea legs" back after being on the bike. in spite of her protesting to go faster, I walked B on a couple of steep paved sections because pavement can be hard on paws and I was tired. Well before mile one, however, I noticed her look back with a sense of urgency. Some dogs were gaining on us. And quickly.

I'd hoped for a cruise home but it was not to be the case. I was hurting but we weren't going to let this one go. How many chances do you get in life to stand on a podium with your dog, anyway? We picked it up and B did fine. We increased our lead a bit so I stopped at an aid station to see if she wanted anything. She looked at me, then back down the trail, then up the road again and accelerated. She knew we were racing and didn't want anyone getting back in it. At the next one approached I pulled us near the "doggie pool" just in case.

"Need a drink?" A glance at the pool, then eyes fixed straight ahead and another acceleration. By the finish we'd put an extra two minutes into our completion. Beata then ignored a dog who ran up to us on the finishing straight. She was like a race horse running for the wire and nothing was going to interfere with her concentration.

She seemed really pleased when I placed the medal over her neck and revelled in all the attention. She like the medal ceremony, too, but I think her favorite part was when Tuco found the pizza delivery guy before it was announced and brought her over so they could score a bunch of pizza before anyone else.

We were a pretty happy family. Romney was like a proud parent and wrote this race report. Tuco may have lost his physical dominance but can still work a crowd. And I think I've found my new sport. I wonder if it has a world championship event?

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I haven't been too strict with diet over the course of the program. But since I always eat decently my results are progressing just fine. For the next two weeks, however, I'm going to get a bit stricter and force the next set of results.

The P90X is a performance diet, not a weight loss diet. While you are likely to lose weight on it that is not its priimary function. This is in contrast to every other diet we offer with our programs. It's also why if you run the calorie calculations for X compared to with our other tools you'll end up with more calories. Because X is advanced we assume that anyone going into it has a higher fitness level and percentage of fat to muscle. We have a fit test, that if you can pass, means this is true. So the average person beginning X will consume at least 500 more calories a day than someone beginning our of our regular programs because their BMR should be much higher.

When I advise people beginning X I don't emphasize a weight loss plan, even if their aim is to lose weight. Paramout in X is recovery and you must eat enough to recover if you want your performance to increase. In a more de-conditioned state, as you're more likely to begin one of our entry programs, we suggest you begin with weight loss because you're not yet fit enough to incure serious breakdown from your workouts. So we severely limit calorie consumption as your fitness builds its base.

In a beginner program as your body composition changes you need to eat more to keep results coming because you have to feed your new muscle mass, even in order to keep fat loss happening. For this reason the number one piece of advise we give our longterm members is to eat more calories once they've hit that initial plateau. In X, if you undereat you'll simply never recover and your results will stagnate from the start.

The phased diet plan in X was designed for our average X customer but isn't meant to be set in stone. Here is my post on periodizational dieting. I like this plan for most people, but I ammend it for my friends, especially athletic friends who've gotten a little our of shape, like me during this round of X.

For these types I generally recommend eating anything you want during the initial stages of X. The reason is that we need to recover above all else. The chances are, also, that we'll be doing at least some other exercise. Most of us are training for sports as well the X will always have a double element, even in its initial block. We don't recommend this in our program guide--and wouldn't even necessarily recommend it for athletes. But the reality is that athletes like playing their games and are probably going to, at least to some degree, all of the time. Btw, I'm going to post on sports-specific X routines later on.

I'll always show some restraint with my diet when training but, essentially, if I am desperately hungry I'll pig out. I'm not really a habitual eater. When I'm hungry it's usually due to body breakdown. However, I don't always fuel myself properly. During the initial stages of an exercise program (unless I'm on a very tight schedule) I'll generally fuel myself with whatever I feel like eating, even if it's junk-ish. If I want pizza and beer; that's what I have. And I don't care if this causes me to gain weight initially as long as I'm recovering well enough that I can continually improve the intensity of my training.

At some point, however, bad eating becomes simply bad eating. This is when it's time to streamline. I think I'm at that point. I feel good. My training is beginning to make big leaps along with my fitness. Yesterday I did a group ride and beat my time up Emigration canyon by about 25% from a month ago. I'm recovering with what I eat but I can tell I'm eating a little more than I need. So it's time to start ditching those extra calories. To borrow a broken English term from Arnold back in his Pumping Iron days, it's time to get my diet "to a point."

When the fitness is there it's important to note the cutting calories will have a dramatic effect, and that it could be bad. You need to feed your body and over the next two weeks I'm going to border on not feeding it enough. This helps improve fat metabolism--really important for endurance events--but can lead to chronic overtraining quickly if it's pushed too far. But as far as visible results go, this is when they happen rapidly.

Reed, you gettin' this? 'Cause you're in too.

pic: i like to enjoy a martini. two at the very most. three is off the diet. and four...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thanks Tony

Actually it's thanks Beachbody, which you'll find here on our wedding site, but since this thread is about P90X I thought I'd throw some extra love Tony's way for contributing to the tandem fund. We have our bike, and there will be pics to follow. But, for now, here is the card that Jude (at the office) concocted for us. Click on it to read the caption, which is perfect.

That was above and beyond the call of duty for all of you, and we greatly appreciate it.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Dilemmas Of A Weekend Warrior

The main problem with being an advanced weekend warrior is that even when you’re in shape for one sport you’re out of shape for another. Since I cycle my sports throughout the year I seem to always find myself in early season dues paying season for one sport or another. This year, since I got out of shape for all of my sports, I’m concurrently searching for form at cycling, climbing, and running (even though I can’t yet actually run). What this means is that I just had a recovery week and I’m more sore than during my 90X training weeks. This week, therefore, will be a transition week.

Friday I did an easy bouldering circuit with Ben in Little Cottonwood. Got really sore. Sat rode the fixie down to the races and back a couple of times, then Romney and I took the tandem out and chased Dustin around. One crit doesn’t really do much except warm him up and this ride was a bit tiring. Sunday, joined Sam and Dustin on a “recovery” ride for around 4 hours. This all went well until they decided to air it out a little near the end of Emigration and put over a minute into me over the last quarter of the climb. Ouch can’t really describe how hard the rest of the ride was. Numb described how I feel this morning.

One of the interesting dilemmas I face is that my main two sports have exactly the opposite physical requirements. In both climbing and riding strength to weight ratio is paramount. However, the perfect physique for climbing is a large strong upper body and spindly legs. In cycling, it’s reversed. Living in a compromised state is something I’m used to. I try and peak at different times of year. But since I skipped an entire season of training I’m now trying to build concurrent fitness in sports requiring completely different training regimes. While it’s fun sorting out what you can put your body through I’m also wandering around in a constant “I’ll never be fit again” state. Of course, by definition having a dilemma means that I need to try and solve it. And as long as I’m leaning something it’s all okay with me. I’m my favorite lab rat.

So this week is a transition towards my final block of 90X (this is going to incorporate X Plus). Along with daily riding, running, climbing (not all each day), my X schedule will be targeted toward both recovery, preparing me for the next round of resistance training, and my sports.

M – Yoga X
T – Legs & Back
W – X Plus Core & Slim Series Express Cool It Off
T – Core Synergistics
F – Yoga X

Photo: The wrong kind of bike: getting un-fit in Nepal.

Friday, June 06, 2008

How Long Should Recovery Cycles Be?

This morning Romney and I got up at 5:30 to do yoga. She had a class. I joined Tony. I got out of bed as stiff and sore as I was last week when I was actually training hard and thinking that I should be closer to being recovered by now.

P90X has recovery weeks that, as I said before, are really more like transition weeks. Recovery cycles during hard training can't always be mapped out. They generally consist of low-level training until the body is healed up and ready to go again and it's impossible to estimate how long this will take. While there are some obvious signs when your body is recovered that will surface eventually it can be tricky to get the timing right on exactly when you should begin hard training again.

Early in a training programs when recovery periods are transition periods you've often just shifted the work load. During this time other breakdown is occuring and you may not feel recovered during a recovery cycle. It's generally best to stick to a per-determined schedule during these periods. However, when you jump back into your training if performance hasn't improved you'll be best served to go back to your recovery phase.

During very hard training, like doubles in X or when your competing or performing it's best to continue recovery until your sure you're ready. The obvious indicator is feeling restless and bored and jonzing for more. But this isn't always the case because your body can trick you and feel creaky or sluggish when it's over rested. Checking your resting heart rate is a good way to tell when you're rested. It's not always correct but if your morning heart rate is slow it probably means it's time to load up the training again. If, after a couple of sessions you aren't feeling strong, transition back to recovery workouts and try again later.

A key component to recovery is nutrition. There's a saying that goes along the lines of "there's no such thing as overtraining. There's just undereating, undersleeping, and failure of will," and it's accurate to the point that overtraining is defined by your ability to recover, which is a function of rest and nutrition. This brings me to a little point I've been thinking about concerning doping for sports, because its aim is to enhance the body's ability to repair itself.

Sports doping enhances recovery through un-natural means. Using science we can speed up recovery, meaning you can train harder sooner. No sport has been rocked by doping as much as cycling over the last few years. This year's Giro is an indication that doping may actually not be going on in the peloton.

The reason that almost every grand tour champion in the last 15 years has been busted for drugs is that in a stage race doping is vital if you're competing against other dopers. In a one day race you can train, then rest and recover and peak. A stage races requires that you race daily. Over the last 15 years the speed of the grand tours has increased nearly every year. You would see the favorites win every key stage, even towards the end of the race. They were even getting stronger. Some of the fastest time trials in Tour history have been ridden at the end of the race, which seems unlikely using natural means after 20 days of continuous competition.

This year's Giro was different. The leaders--even though they were the best time trialists in the race--got creamed in the final stage. This makes sense because they'd been battling in the mountains during the previous stages while those not competing for the general classification were "resting" in the autobus, just trying to make the time cut. In the last stage the overall leaders were very competitive with each other but were beaten badly by those who'd rested while they were racing. This is a far cry from the last couple of decades (since EPO surfaced in the peloton) where the favorites would be dropping everyone in the mountains and then take more minutes in a time trail for following day. Clean cycling may be a reality again.

I'm not sure if I am creaky and sluggish or still overtrained, but yoga was hard this morning. I'll take it slow and steady this weekend, plan the next block of training, but Monday will only be a test as to whether I move ahead or do some more recovery.

pic: Giro podium: first and second in the first tt, this group finished 11th, 28th, and 68th on the race's final day.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Things Are Startin' To Stretch

Bagged Yoga today after the first few sun salutations and popped in X Stretch instead. I'm still tired and what I really needed today was a thorough stretching session. It occured to me that I haven't ever done this workout in its final form. I did the test version, of course, but this was a little different. During the X each time I stretched I'd done Debbie's Slim in 6 Express Cool It Off dvd, just because it's shorter. X Stretch was just what I needed.

I stretch daily but almost never long enough, which is a chronic problem. Stretching is boring. Thing is, whenever I do it I feel so good I say to myself that I'll stretch more. Rarely happens. Whenever it does my performance goes up and my injuries abate. Today's session was prompted because while climbing last Sat my knee locked up doing the above move. I have a problem in my knee that's been there for years. When I'm stretching enough and warm-up properly I don't notice it. But whenever I neglect it for too long I have something bad happen. This is generally during a climb when all of my weight is sitting on it, or when it's twisted as I'm starting to do in this pic. It usually siezes up, locks, causes me to fall off and then swells up. Luckily, it's never happened in a dire situation--actually, it did once and I was luckily able to hold it together for one more move to a big hold where I could both get protection and shake out my leg. This weekend it was a minor problem only as I was able to clip a bolt, hang, and shake it out. But it was enough to get me stretching again.

A cycling coach once said "if you don't have time to stretch you don't have time to train." Very few of us pay attention to this. Those that do, I'm certain, out perform everyone else.

Core Synergistics

I generally find this to be one of the more fun workouts in the 90x arsenal but yesterday it destroyed me. This is the sign of a good workout. One that is challenging and fun but still requires you to be on your game. I'm very tired from the events of the preceding weeks, which is why this is recovery week in the first place. The next time this workout pops up on the schedule it's going to be different.

Core Syn is a hybrid workout that targets all the muscles of the core region. You'd guess this from the title but many of the movements confuse people that have been conditioned to think that the core region is trained with nothing but crunches and sit-ups. In reality, its attached to everything so practically any full body movement trains your core. This is why this workout is full of variations of squats, lunges, and push-ups. Since it's your core, not your legs, that are essentially the trunk of the human tree core training is single most important body region to keep in condition.

Isabelle, wife of our CEO Carl, is a core training expert. She works will a lot of world class athletes on balance and core synergy to try and even out their training. She developed a program years back that never made it to market. It was outstanding, in my mind, and a completely new concept for not just home training but training in general. But Carl nixed it because we couldn't find a home for it. It was just too conceptual for us to sell to the masses. I fought to keep it, even if just a piece of our arsenal, because in my world the more fitness solutions we offer the easier it is to get results with our clients. But Carl didn't want to "half ass" its release, which is what we'd have to do if we couldn't sell it on TV. We're still hoping to find a way to sell it to the masses. In the mean time, we've added more core and balance oriented movements to all of our programs. So we're essentially building our own base for this program. The X Plus workouts have taken another step in this direction. We'll get to those later.

Tony's line of the day is when he's discussing some people's tendency to do a move with poor form. He corrects this with "I want you to start a new tendency..." I love this. It'll work for anything. Why blame bad habits? Just change them into good habits and you'll be fine. Life doesn't have to be as difficult as we like to make it.

pic: climbing requires a lot of core strength.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Recovery Week

My second block of P90X has ended with our marriage/housewarming party this weekend. I think just hosting the party was enough to cause overtraining. It's time for a recovery week.

In 90X, the "recovery week" is really more of a transition week because it's not really easier than actual blocks themselves. In fact, many people find P90X recovery week to be the hardest weeks of all. And though they may feel like harder weeks they aren't on most of the systems being targeted. They feel hard because they include a lot of synergistic movements that are just plain difficult to do. But the overall breakdown that occurs is much less.

It's a little difficult to understand growth curves, recovery, and how or when to actually peak while doing 90X (or any program). We're getting so many questions about it that I'll be writing an article on it soon for the Beachbody newsletter. I'll explain, in brief, what's going on. It's in the X guide (I know, since I wrote it) but here is some further explanation. The concept is simple but understanding it in relation to your own training is more subtle. Many people feel like they won't make progress unless they're training hard all the time, but that's not how the body works.

A block of training generally targets something specific. You may target muscle growth (hypertrophy), muscle strength, pure power, endurance, increased VO2 max, etc. A block generally assumes that a foundation has been laid, or a "Foundation Phase" can also be a block. Each phase goes through an adaptive period followed by a growth period (also called mastery). Once your body masters the said curriculum it tapers off. This tapering is referred to as a plateau because the ascending curve associated with the fitness gains levels off because your body has gotten used to the training.

A recovery period allows the microtrauma of the above training to heal. If done correctly other aspects of fitness can be gained as the main elements are healing. When the recovery period ends you should be stronger and ready to begin the next phase (or block) or training or to do an event you've been training for. Recovery periods don't necessarily have to be easy but they do have to rest whatever was targeted during the preceding block. Harder recovery weeks, such as in P90X, are often referred to as transition phases because they are designed more to aid transition than simply speed recovery. Essentially, as you are resting the targeted areas of your latest block you are targeting new areas. In this case, stabilizer muscles, flexibility, and coordination. If you were recovering for an event in which you wanted to peak, you would choose an easier recovery period that focuses more on resting and less on improving other areas.

The length of a recovery period varies as do the length of training blocks. The 3 weeks "on", 1 week "off" 90X plan is an advanced scenario. Training blocks are often set up differently. 6 weeks on and 2 off is common. An effect block will almost never exceed 10 or so weeks. The perfect scenario is variable, meaning that you would graph off of your training and begin recover once your gains declined. Then you would begin your next round as soon as you were recovered.

In my example, I have overtrained slightly on the bike over the last few weeks but my abridged workouts in X mean that my growth curve there is still accelerating. So my week on the bike will target full recovery while my week of X will target improvement. My X training is going to begin to incorporate some climbing. My bike/cardio stuff will begin adding more runs/hikes (still can't run yet, hmmm).

Progress update: My strength has improved a lot. I’m doing more push-ups during sets of workouts than I could do as a max in April. Almost ditto for pull-ups. My shoulder, which felt awful at the start of the program is moving with much less impingement. I’m tired on the bike but with the virtual Giro that was to be expected. I think my time trial this week will show that I’m fitter. Given the stress level of my life over the past few months I feel pretty damn good. I think the next block is going to be great.

Recovery Week – I plan to bike most days and run/hike the others. All biking will be easy except for a time trial up Emigration and one up Mill Creek. I will try and begin climbing a little, but no hard days at all.

X Sched:

M – Core Syn
T – Yoga
W – Stretch
T- Core Syn
F – Yoga
S, S – play outside