Monday, September 28, 2009

Jack LaLanne Challenge

Jack LaLanne week, as it should, culminated with a challenge. On Thursday night I got to meet Jack at a party thrown in his honor. As I told Denis, I don’t care one bit about meeting celebrities but, to me, Jack’s not a celebrity but a hero. I was pretty excited.

Jack LaLanne’s Birthday Bash

On Saturday, I got to do my own little Jack impression. Someday maybe I’ll muster up the motivation to attempt one of his actually challenges. For now, I’ll continue with my own personal multi-sport themes where I try and combine power and endurance sports.

I began the morning of Jack’s actual 95th birthday by doing 95 Jumping Jacks, After his signature move, I continued the warm-up with some Jack LaLanne yoga, which is more functional than traditional. For example, down dog and up dog are described as thus (from memory, so this quote won’t be accurate),

“This is what Happy (his white German Shepard) does before he chases a ball or runs around in the yard. C’mon, show us Happy…”

I’ve never heard Jack use the word yoga, but his old TV shows are rife with yoga poses turned into exercises. Then I did 95 reps of 9 of his more famous movements, including finger tip push-ups and chin ups. These seems so good to warm-up for climbing that I only did 70 reps before jumping on my bike for 95 minutes (which I spent doing climbing intervals to try and get my climbing totals for the day close to 9,500’). Post ride, I finished the exercises and heading up to a V9 traverse to attempt 95 moves with 9.5lbs strapped to my back.

En route I spent some time helping someone whose car was broken down. This resulted in that my objective had already gone into the sun. So I turned around to try another traverse, Merrill’s 5.14 (no name that I know of), that had been shaded when I drove by. But I was too late. As I began climbing the sun hit it. 95 moves at my limit, in the sun, with a 10 pound ball on my back, was more than a little tedious. I wasn’t very familiar with this route (though I am now). This caused more failure on the moves than I was hoping for (meaning lots of re-dos). Still, I was able to get all the moves but three or four (or five) of the 30-some move route. Not bad.

I was now hot, sweaty, and my fingers could barely grip the steering wheel. But that was okay because all I had to do was to run for 9.5 miles over two mountains. Romney dropped me off in my heat resistant garb (she was laughing at me and saying that I looked like a pirate) and I headed up Grandeur Peak in the afternoon sun.

Grandeur climbs over 3,000 feet in less than two miles and has almost no shade. We’d been having perfect air quality but a fire from somewhere had sullied the air. The combo had me pretty cooked near the top, when Mick called to fill me in on my proposed second half of the run. When I told him where I was he groaned and asked, “is it hot?” When I filled him in on my objective he said, “Wow, you’re having a big day.” Then I told him what I’d already done, and he just laughed.

Having Mick laugh is a little daunting. He gets up a four am most days and usually has a peak or two in the bag before I’m awake. We’ll often go climbing on these days and he’s never seems to be any worse for wear. And he’d just won a rugged 50 mile trail race in Moab. Yet, to him, what I was doing sounded “grim”. Awesome. Jack would love it.

I recovered somewhat on the descent into Mill Creek Canyon where Romney met me with a salad. The last part of my challenge was to eat 95 fruits, veggies, and legumes (Jack eats 10 different veggies every day). I’d knocked off a bunch with my morning Shakeology and a veggie sandwich. My next meal with a small box filled with everything in the salad bar at Whole Foods. Now, in no way, is this a normal sports food diet, but it worked just fine. My energy was good all day.

As it turns out, my next objective was a wee bit longer than I’d planned—like twice as far. So I was hoping for a good landmark to shoot for that would get me closer to the goal. Also, Romney and Beata would be joining me, and we weren’t geared up for 8 miles of game trails, so almost certainly we’d be turning around at some point. As serendipity would have it, we made a wrong turn that led us to an overlook. It was 2 miles (and 2,000-some-odd feet) to reach it. Perfect.

Romney was a trooper in support. She claimed to not feel good but didn’t complain much, except that she was very quiet. She made it through the run, and then began vomiting on our way to the taqueria, where she still managed to be good company as I polished off the rest of my veggies, which mainly consisted of various types of chili. My wife rocks.
pic: nothing at all to do with jack lalanne, romney hits one of the crux moves on her first 5.12
Back home, I drank a glass of red wine. Jack drinks red wine daily (“because the French outlive everyone”) and finished Jack week with some restorative yoga. The next day I actually felt decent. I learned that I was accepted into a race where I’d be running with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, the famous Raramuri (running people), so I went for a long run on a perfect trail that I just happened to find, and spotted a cliff so large and steep that it could be the version of my own Echo Wall that I’ve been looking for. But these are other stories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Feeling Old?

Check out this 74-year old. Apparently there are over 40,000 people in Japan that are over 100 years old, and I'm sure this has much more to do with lifestyle than genetics (do we even have an over 75 bodybuilding category, because this guy is nervous about moving up because the competition is so stiff?!). Culturally they eat a plant-based diet and a lot of fish. Plus, their snacks are so weird that it must self limit overindulgence. Regardless, this guy is an inspiration and a perfect fit for Jack LaLanne week.

Another perfect fit, as to just why Jack week is so important, is the ad before the vid, brought to us by Jimmy Dean sausage. Yahoo also released this and one-upped the Brits with an ad from Dunkin Donuts. How dare another country try and usurp our obesity title!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Preaching The Here And Now

On Thursday I'll be attending Jack LaLanne's birthday party. On Sat, I'll be doing a fitness challenge in honor of his birthday. I guess that makes this officially Jack LaLanne week. I'm still not sure what my challenge is going to be yet. 95 is a pretty big number to play with. In the mean time, I've stumbled on another great article on LaLanne. You know, the guy who claims he "spent a lot of time on the floor with your mother." This one is from Sam McManis at the SF Chronicle.

Raising the bar
At 88, fitness guru Jack LaLanne can run circles around those half his age

It may even top the article I posted last week for its entertainment value. LaLanne's story is inspiring. His personality is amusing. Here we get a glimpse of the catalyst the got him into exercise in the first place:

"I'd eat a quart of ice cream in one sitting, shove my finger down my throat, heave it up and have another quart," LaLanne said. "There's nothing more addictive on this earth than sugar. Not heroin, booze, whatever. It's much worse than smoking. Boy, I tell you, I had blinding headaches every day. I was mentally screwed up by sugar. I was psychotic. I was malnourished. I was always getting sick. I got kicked out of school. I wanted to die."

And on what it was like to eat healthy as teenager in a world where humans are like "walking garbage cans."

"They thought I was crazy," he said. "I had to take my lunch alone to the football field to eat so no one would see me eat my raw veggies, whole bread, raisins and nuts. You don't know the crap I went through, boy."

LaLanne invented a lot of fitness gear, exercise regimens, dietary practices, and opened one of the first fitness chains in the USA, which caused a lot of people to eye him suspiciously.

LaLanne said Bay Area newspapers, except for The Chronicle's Herb Caen, treated him like a "crackpot who doesn't eat meat and wants everybody to rupture something lifting weights." Few people joined at first, but one who did, restaurateur Vic ("Trader Vic") Bergeron, gave LaLanne some advice one day while getting a massage from him: Wear a tight T-shirt and strut your stuff on high school campuses.

Eventually people sought him out, apparently even Clint Eastwood as a 16 year old. This led to a career in TV, the place I first saw him as a kid. This appears to not have been exactly smooth sailing for him either.

A TV novice, LaLanne's initial reviews were not great. He heard those same old "crackpot" epithets, this time from newspapers back east: Women will look like men if they work out. That health food is bad for the body. On his very first show, Jack looked into the camera earnestly and said, "If man makes it, don't eat it." Then he took a loaf of Langendorf white bread, smashed it into a tight ball and flung it to the floor with a thud. "See," he said, "that's what it does in your stomach, too."

Langendorf, it turned out, was one of the show's sponsors.

It goes on from there, all the while referencing LaLanne's famous cultural diatribes, such as:

On the evils of sugar and junk food: "It destroys the B vitamins. It destroys your mind, affects your memory, your concentration. Why do you think so many of these kids today are screwed up? It's what they're eating. You know how much sugar Americans consume today in white flour, cakes, pies, candy and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning and give him a cigarette, cup of coffee and a doughnut? How many millions of Americans got up this morning with a breakfast like that? And you wonder why people are sick and obese."

On whether people should consume dairy products: "Are you a suckling calf? No. Do you have two stomachs? No. Name me one creature on this earth, except for man, who uses milk after they wean. Why do you think so many people are fat and have heart attacks? Cholesterol! Butter, cream, cheese, ice cream, whole milk. They got these athletes prostituting their souls by posing with milk mustaches. Those guys ought to be thrown in jail."

On celebrity: "I hated it. I was just doing my job. Celebrities give me a pain in the butt. Some of the biggest bums in this world are Hollywood people. They're drunkards, do dope, don't exercise."

And finally, on life:

"Billy Graham preaches the hereafter. I preach the here-and-now."

the challenge of challenges: pulling 70 boats and people across Long Beach harbor with his hands and feet shackled, at age 70.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Join The Jack LaLanne Challenge

I started the feats because everyone said I was just a muscle-bound charlatan. I had to show them I was an athlete.

"Maybe you don't believe in Jesus," Jack continued, looking me up and down. "But was Jesus a showman? Why did he go around making the blind see and the lame walk and those kinds of things? He did it to call attention to his philosophy."

On September 26th, next Saturday, Jack turns 95. Instead of doing my own birthday challenge this year I'll be doing one in honor of the man who started all this, Jack LaLanne (here's the history of how I began doing challenges). Why not join me?

Someone has actually started a site to help you organize a Jack LaLanne challenge on "Jack LaLanne Day". If you do something cool, make sure and record it and we'll post it on

I'm not sure what it's going to be just yet, but the number 95 (Jack's age next Sat) will be in the mix. It's going to be epic but, mostly, it's going to be fun. I don't think it'll be epic in Jack-ian terms, exactly. Check out his list. Or even in mine (2007, 2003, 2000), but it will be hard for me in my current state of recovery. A challenge is anything that challenges you personally. If you think that you can't do it but also think that, maybe, just maybe, if you do everything right that you might be able to, then you're in the ballpark. If this goal is something you've always wondered about, then your golden. I'll announce the exact plan next week.

In the mean time, here's one of my favorite Jack LaLanne articles, courtesy of Outside Magazine.

There are so many gems in this article that it's almost a training bible. Here are a few:

Think you're training too hard?

After he opened the Jack Lalanne Physical Culture Studio in 1936, Jack got clients by going around to the homes of overweight and underweight adolescents. He sold their concerned parents on memberships as a way to save their children's lives. "I checked daily on their nutritional habits and their grades in school," he said. "If they didn't show up, I'd know why. Only mistake I made was I might have worked the kids too hard."

"How did you know you'd gone too far?" I asked.

"They'd heave and pass out," he said with a nostalgic smile.

Why do I always recommend changing your routine every three weeks?

Out near the pool, as three dogs lapped at the water, Jack pointed to a pile of neoprene straps tied to a chrome railing. "I change my program every three weeks," he said. "Out here, I've been strapping myself to the side of the pool lately and butterflying for at least an hour. You oughta try it."

On snacking before bed and other bad habits:

Then--thoughtlessly, perhaps, and only because I do it myself--I asked Jack LaLanne if he ever snacks before bedtime.

"Never!" he snarled. "You don't get it. I am one runaway son of a bitch! I am an animal! I want to eat everything! I want to get drunk every single night! I want to screw every woman there is! We are all wild animals. But we must learn to use our minds. We must learn to control the bestial and sensual sides of ourselves!"

On supplementing your diet:

After his dawn-to-dark workouts, Jack will pour several hundred different vitamin supplements into a blender along with great handfuls of yeast and liver tablets, a pile of kelp, some carrot and celery juice, a few pieces of fruit, some egg whites, and a splash of half-and-half. He says it's the worst-tasting stuff in the whole world, but he drinks it down every day. He says that the secret of his endurance swims through cold and treacherous waters is a massive infusion of "B complex, liver, and defatted government-inspected yeast."

On fad fitness equipment:

"Have you seen some of the crap they're selling as exercise equipment now?" Jack wondered. "How about that Suzanne Somers? She should have been thrown in jail for selling the piece-of-crap Thigh Master. It just develops a little muscle on the inner thigh. What good is that? And have you seen Tony Little, the guy who screams on TV? He's like an imbecile. He says you need this little thing to hold you while you do a sit-up. Why does the government let him get away with it?"

On age:

"Don't talk age!" he interrupted. "Age has nothing to do with it. One of my guys who started out at my gym is 87 now, and he still does ten bench-press reps with a hundred-pound dumbbell in each hand. He's training to set a leg-pressing record. I put things in the guy's brain way back when, and now he'll never get away from it."

And, now that I think personally about my life, on why I train the way I do:

"I train like I'm training for the Olympics or for a Mr. America contest, the way I've always trained my whole life. You see, life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest." Then he segued into a mantra I'm sure I heard dozens of times as a very young boy: "How many healthy people do you know? How many happy people do you know? Think about it. People work at dying, they don't work at living. My workout is my obligation to life. It's my tranquilizer. It's part of the way I tell the truth--and telling the truth is what's kept me going all these years."

Inspired yet?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I suck at yoga but that hasn’t stopped me from trying to get better each day over the last couple of months. Today, while trying to follow Gillian Clark during Pure & Simple Yoga I was again reminded of how bad I am at it. The upside is that in yoga it just doesn’t matter one bit. Ego aside, yoga makes me feel good and that’s all that matters.

While I’m bad at it, I’m definitely progressing. I’ve been asked to list just what I’ve been doing, so here you go. I should qualify this with the back story. I have a ruptured L5S1 disc, which caused sciatic nerve damage. From Jan-June, I could do very little stretching and no forward bending. When I began doing yoga in July, it had to start slow and easy.

I began with Rodney Yee’s Back Care Yoga. This is a one hour session that is broken down into three sections: flexibility, strengthening, and restorative poses. Restorative poses, essentially, use gravity to slowly stretch muscles. These are EASY. So I began using this 20 minute segment as my default practice, while pushing a little harder on days I felt good.

Once I assessed that I could do this without damaging my back, I began starting each day with one of Rodney Yee’s 20 minute sessions from AM Yoga. Yee is one of the old guard of the video yoga movement. He’s an excellent teacher and these videos are perfect for anyone looking to begin with gentle yoga.

Next, Romney bought me (well, us) the Athlete’s Guide To Yoga. This is also a gentle practice that assumes most of your training is done elsewhere. Since most of mine is, it’s great. The instructor, Sage Roundtree, is a little Berkeley-esque for my tastes but she’s thorough and I’ve come to really like this video. The many short routines are programmable for a myriad of workout options.

A mixture of these three videos has been the cornerstone of my practice, which until recently had been entirely focused on rehabilitation.

The progress I’ve made has caused me to move yoga up on my workout priorities. Now I often replace other workouts, even riding or running, with yoga. I figure that I can get that fitness back quickly anyway, so I should focus on the thing that will increase my ability in those areas to improve beyond where they were when I get back to them. This has necessitated a need to increase the intensity of my yoga practice.

For more workout oriented yoga, I’ve been using Clark’s Pure & Simple Yoga (part of the Yoga Booty Ballet series), Chalene Johnson’s Dynamic Flow Yoga (part of the Chalene Extreme series), and Tony Horton’s One on One yogas and recovery workouts. None of these are 90X-ian in their severity but more balanced practices and much better suited to my days where there will almost always be another workout outside. I am about to start adding Yoga X into the schedule, even if just to gauge how I’ve improved, since for years that was the only yoga workout I did. For me, however, the strength aspects of yoga are not my goals. I’m much better at these anyway. My goals are range of motion increase, improved balance and body awareness.

Neither Chalene or Tony are yoga instructors. While this probably makes their style hard for traditional yoga-ites to stomach, it’s likely very appealing to many who are turned off by the historical mumbo-jumbo and just want a workout. They both have a comical style, which you can see here if this link is still working for "Patience Hummingbird." Gillian’s approach is far more traditional. Her knowledge and passion for yoga is unbridled. She makes me want to get better at yoga.

So far, I think the adding daily yoga has been one of my better athletic decisions. It may not help my ability to suffer through the night on some endurance quest (though it may and certainly won’t hurt), but it’s definitely going to help me age with less pain, and it will help my climbing. As my friend Micah, an avid yoga practitioner, said, “for climbing, yoga is like cheating.”

pic: from

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Anti-Inflammatory Myth

“There is no indication or rationale for the current prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes, and such ritual use represents misuse.”

Say what? If you’re like a lot of my friends you might want to re-think your use of vitamin I. NSAIDs might be the most commonly-used “supplement” in the sports world. The latest research indicates this should change. Check out this article from Gretchen Reynolds (who has been on a roll with cutting edge advice lately):

Phys Ed: Does Ibuprofen Help or Hurt During Exercise?

Essentially, a bevy of studies have shown that using anti-inflammatory medication to reduce exercise-induced inflammation and, hence, protect ourselves against injury doesn’t work. As the article states, this is a very common practice (A study of professional Italian soccer players found that 86 percent used anti-inflammatories during the 2002-2003 season).

In the sports world jargon, up may as well be down. Here’s an explanation:

“ Warden and other researchers have found that, in laboratory experiments on animal tissues, NSAIDs actually slowed the healing of injured muscles, tendons, ligament, and bones. “NSAIDs work by inhibiting the production of prostaglandins,”substances that are involved in pain and also in the creation of collagen, Warden says.”

I’ve always tried to limit my NSAID intake to when necessary. All drugs are hard on one human system or another, so there’s always a trade off to consider. This, however, has not meant that I used them sparingly. Like most athletes, I suffer from a lot of aches, pains, and inflammation. However I never took these to mask pain. I took them because I thought keeping inflammation at bay would reduce the odds of injury. Apparently this is false. In a study done at the Western States 100:

Those runners who’d popped over-the-counter ibuprofen pills before and during the race displayed significantly more inflammation and other markers of high immune system response afterward than the runners who hadn’t taken anti-inflammatories.

I guess this puts us right back in the no pain, no gain school of training. Next time things start to hurt a little consider this:

If “you’re taking ibuprofen before every workout, you lessen this training response,” Warden says. Your bones don’t thicken and your tissues don’t strengthen as they should. They may be less able to withstand the next workout. In essence, the pills athletes take to reduce the chances that they’ll feel sore may increase the odds that they’ll wind up injured — and sore.

Now we just need to interpret which is the good pain that we should push through, and which is the bad pain that’s hurting us.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Profile

A lot of people ask what I do for Beachbody. This should give you some idea. I had no idea BNN was doing this. I get interviewed about a lot of topics, but those never include myself. Makes me think I'd better get back to my coursework.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


"Pythagoras most of all seems to have honored and advanced the study concerned with numbers, having taken it away from the use of merchants and likening all things to numbers."
- Aristoxenus, Greek dude

Hans called last week to see what we'd be doing for 9-9-09. On 8-8-08, we inaugurated the Olympics with a crazy 8s workout. This year, as we look for inspiration we again see that the Chinese hold a high value on the number 9:

The Chinese pulled out all the stops to celebrate their lucky number eight during last year's Summer Olympics, ringing the games in at 8 p.m. on 08/08/08. What many might not realize is that nine comes in second on their list of auspicious digits and is associated with long life, due to how similar its pronunciation is to the local word for long-lasting (eight sounds like wealth).

So how does any of thing correlate into a workout plan? Well, it doesn't. But who are we to let that stop us? Anything can be a good excuse for a hard workout. And it says, right up there in the previous paragraph, that nine is similar to the Chinese word for long-lasting. So tomorrow here's a long-lasting workout that will help our bodies last longer. It will be comprised of:

9 activities all targeting the number 9
be the 9th hard test on my back since its injury (Sports Day, G-Spot, Riding Cobbles, Virtual Giro, Grandeur Fun Run, Rainbow Wall, Ronde van Salt Lake, and 45 miles of singletrack)
will target my nine goals, even if I don't know what these are
will begin at 9:09 am

1 complete all 9 traverses in Deaf Smith Canyon (4 X 5.10, 2 X 5.11, 3 X 5.12)
2 9 yoga poses for 99 seconds each
3 hold 9 core movements for 99 seconds each
4 do my 9 rehab movements for 99 seconds each (45 seconds is the longest I've done any ONE)
5 do 99 moves on the systems wall using 9 different grip positions
6 do 99 one-legged reps on each leg
7 run 9 miles
8 ride 9 miles on road bike
9 ride 9 miles on the mtn bike

pic: 1 away from 10 equals 9. Beata just thinks I'm ridiculous

Wednesday, September 02, 2009


Steve McClure - Hubble 8c+ from ben pritchard on Vimeo.

Here are some great words (and video) from Steve McClure. He succinctly sums up a lot of the reasons why we climb--and how routes can become an obsession for that matter. The story revolves around a route called Hubble that, for a short time, was the hardest bit of rock climbing on the planet.

Only 8c+ But Still The Big One

Somehow, even though it's rarely been repeated, Hubble fell off the world radar as a must-do hard route. McClure, however, had been inspired by its ascent and, even though he'd progressed to the much higher grades of modern world standards, an ascent of Hubble had alluded him. He states:

I was nowhere; an amateur, hoping to trick it into submission like I do with so many other hard routes, finding cunning sequences, holds and body positions that no one else has seen. I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone, but I wanted it for myself. It would complete my graduation and be the culmination of everything I ever wanted or even imagined I could achieve. It wasn’t for the grade, a mere F8c+! These days it’s barely worth a mention. But these figures are irrelevant really, in this case it’s the route that is absolutely everything.

It's funny how we can get captivated by something so meaningless to the rest of the world. But that's what makes climbing, and life in general, so fun and interesting.