Monday, November 30, 2009

Home Improvement

“This is like doing a big wall,” I said to Mike as the clock hit midnight and I just nailed my already bloody thumb with the hammer, again. We were tired, beat up, had an impending goal we couldn’t retreat from and the only way we were going to get there was to keep plugging away, move after move. “That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking for a couple of days,” added Mike.

Sometimes life gets in the way of your plans. A few week’s back I got the call the temporarily changed mine. I’ve been trying to transform our disaster-of-a-garage into a training facility but haven’t been able to find the right contractor for the job. One of the Castle-crew, Mike aka Kid Dynamite, was the guy I wanted but he lived in Oregon. Fortunately, for me, the housing market in Bend is one of the worst in the country and the company he worked for had recently folded. Now he was playing Mr. Mom while his wife brought home the bacon. I offered up some work but there were logistics to sort. In early November he showed up with a truck full of gear and two weeks cleared from the schedule.

When climbing a big wall you never know exactly what you’re getting into when you leave the ground. Mike had his bike and hoped to ride in our state championship cylcocross race. I was training and hoped to send my project on or before my birthday. We began at a civilized pace; me doing my job and helping when I could, Mike working steadily into each evening but leaving a little time for socializing. After a few days he even managed a ride. Then we took a hard look at the schedule and things changed.
5th class painting

“Is this all you got?” screamed Mike towards the torrent of snow that was broadsiding us. It was Mike’s last night and we were in the zone, having been at this from first light to midnight for over a week. But, before he left in the morning, the roof had to go on the carport and we weren’t dealing with light and fluffy Wasatch powder. What began as rain had turned to sleet and then snow. Our footing was icing up but, hell, we’re climbers. We plugged away, frozen fingers manipulating power machinery in the dark. We doubted the unions would approve.

It was my birthday and this was the year’s challenge; to finish the carport (part of the deal for renovating the garage was providing a covered place for Romney to park). My parents were in town and it was a celebration of work. They were cleaning up. Lisa and Scott (my brother-in-law who worked on most of the project) were measuring and cutting boards that I was nailing to the rafters and Mike was cutting supports and adding details to the “White Spider”, Mike’s name for the 40 degree ice field we were creating (comes from the world’s most famous ice field on the north face of the Eiger). With one panel to go we had to call it quits because, if it were placed, we’d have nothing left to hang on to. In the morning we’d rig the roof and finish in safety but, for now, we’d accomplished the goal of getting all the work done that required Mike’s array of tools. We showered until the house ran out of hot water and then had the first lazy and relaxed meal of his trip.

The aftermath sure feels as though I’ve ticked a wall. I’m tired and beat up but have certainly lost specific fitness. But wall climbing does build base fitness, along with heightening your ability to suffer and a sense of accomplishment. I’ve always professed that you should only climb walls with good friends because things will always get ugly at some point and you want to be with people who can laugh with you about the absurd situation you’ve created. This was exactly the case. I’m happy to get back to my life, as I’m sure Mike is, but the little serendipitous epic we created was blast and I look forward to our next adventure.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Apparently I’m not the only one who feels “Crossfitters” are over the top. I mean, I do enjoy the vomit-inducing challenge that CrossFit can bring but, man, talk about a group of people who take themselves way too seriously. I know some educated people who understand the merits of Crossfit but most of the dudes you see spewing about it are about as informed as the crazy McCain rally lady.

In my research I’ve run across blog after blog of misguided Crossfit nonsense. The common sentiment seems to be that only they truly understand the meaning of training and human performance, pretty much like the bros in this video. What I always find most entertaining is when they’re using Crossfit to training for a sport but aren’t actually any good in the sport they profess to be training for. Instead of copping to the fact that, say, there might be a more effective way to improve, they chastise those who are bettering them at said event by boasting that they wouldn’t be able to hang down that the Crossfit gym.

My favorite example was a triathlete stating that none of the “wimpy little fuckers” passing him in a race “could dead lift shit”. It’s kind of like a restaurant critic condemning a taqueria for not making sushi.

I’ve been doing my own version of Crossfit lately, which is spending all of my spare time doing construction. The goal before the snows his is to build Romney a carport and turn the garage into a first rate training facility. In order to keep my weight down and balance out my training, I’ve been jack hammering concrete, hanging dry wall, digging foundations, hauling lumber and other great cross training movements until late into each evening. My friend Mike is in charge of the construction. He’s better at all those things than I am. He can also beat me on a bike. But who gives a shit? I’d like to see him do an 8 exercise Tabata and then jump out of a barrel. Now you must excuse me while I take my shirt off and cover my entire hands and forearms with chalk so I can shop for cool new board shorts on the net.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Big In Japan

For your Monday morning reading enjoyment I present:

How Japan Defines "Fat"

I don't really have much to crack wise about on this story. The article, and its comments, are an interesting discussion that shed a oddly-restrained light (for a comment thread anyway) on an important topic; you know, the one about America leading a world wide obesity epidemic that's spearheading a global recession and increasing the division between rich and poor that, essentially, could lead to the entire planet living in a third world state until we figure out how to colonize a new resource base to ruin.

Bravo to Japan for taking such a pro-active response to the problem. And before you write them off as being draconian and un-realistic, consider that the punishment is education. We'd do well to follow suit. Unfortunately, I think the only way our lobbyist driven government will allow that to happen is if Conagra, Monsanto, and Coca Cola are allowed to do the educating. And as we've seen from the way these people do business, that's hardly going to lead to a more enlightened public.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Got Stoke?

How far would you go to save your secret spots?

My friend Belt's movie opens tonight, in the surf capitol of Texas, and will be playing all weekend. You can also catch it in SoCal in Dec. Don't miss out!

If you're still waffling about catching the next flight to Austin, consider this is from the makers of Invasion From Planet C. For the latest, check the Stoke Films web site.

Now ask yourself, without the stoke is life even worth living?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Short Cycle

Yesterday I explained training cycles (muscle confusion) in general. Today I’ll lay out my plan for a short cycle designed to help me send a route in the next couple of weeks.

I’ll begin with an anecdote from the shed days. Back then we were really into training—and I mean really into it. Some would say that I still am but, though smarter (I hope), I don’t train with near the fervor that I did back then. We trained for climbing but, compared to a lot of people, we didn’t actually climb that much because we lived in an area that didn’t have much rock. So we trained like maniacs in long cycles and would only peak a couple of times per year. In fact, each year I would do almost all of my hard climbing during a couple of few-week-long peak phases. The rest of the year I’d kind of suck because I’d always be in the middle of some phase of training.

Contrary to us our friend Hans climbed all year around. He loved training, too, but because he made his living by traveling and climbing he was forced to climb more and train less. So he made up amalgams of what we were doing into more targeted short cycles, designed to give him mini peaks for events or competitions. As I began traveling more I began using these as well to try and peak for various objectives on the road.

Move ahead 15 years, give or take, and things really haven’t changed that much. You’ve got the Simpson types, who put in countless hours of training designed around peaking for a few weeks a year. You’ve got Sharma types, who “wake up, have breakfast, and go climbing…everyday.” And you’ve got people in between, like Salt Lake climber Steve Maisch.

Ben sent me an article titled Steve Maisch’s 4 Not-so-easy Steps to More Power (unfortunately no longer available on the web but check this pic to see how it works) that’s a great explanation of what short cycles are. Maisch begins the article stating that he has no background in exercise physiology but a lot of experience in trial and error. I’ll take this over someone with a lot of schooling and no experience any day, especially since Maisch climbs harder than any of us every dreamed of.

Essentially, Maisch came up with a system using 8-day training cycles that combine, on different days, campus boarding, system wall training, hangboarding, and bouldering using 4 by 4s. It’s a lot like what we used to do but more refined. To train for my route, I’m going to use this system, tailored to fit my goals.

Essentially, this system combines power and power-endurance training into one block. The more stressful power work happens on day one, followed by PE work the next day, followed by rest. To maximize gains you’d want to train these systems separately but, sans time, I’ll compromise maximal improvement for smaller gains.

I can climb the route now from the bottom to the last boulder problem. I can do the last boulder problem but it’s right at my limit. My goal is therefore to increase my power so that I can use lower threshold muscle cell motor units for the last section, while increasing my power endurance so that I’m less tired when I get there. Also, there’s a difficult boulder problem at the start, so increasing power will make this easier and leave more reserves for later.

Day 1 boulder for about an hour, campus
Day 2 4-by-4, 2 sets
Day 3 rest
Day 4 system wall, 2 sets, fingerboard 1 set
Day 5 4-by-4, 1 set
Day 6 rest
Day 7 rest
Day 8 do route

If one cycle doesn’t work I’ll revamp based on where I fail and keep trying until the weather craps out. But I’ve only got a couple of shots at it because these are very intense cycles of training and can’t be duplicated too long without a break. But that’s okay, because in a month (or less) I won’t be able to get to the route anyway.

As Johan Bruyneel said about Armstrong’s plan to win the Tour de France, “The plan was very simple. Making it happen was not so simple.” Now comes the fun part, the training.
vid: one of my favorite training videos showing an absolutely ridiculous training session with sonnie trotter. my old shoulders and elbows will never be able to take this kind of abuse but i find this absurdly inspiring nonetheless.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Muscle Confusion Explained

I finished cleaning, bolting, and doing the moves on a route in the Wasatch this weekend. I can do it in sections but linking them is going to take improvement. With winter around the corner I don’t have much time to improve as well as peak. It’s time for a short cycle.

One of the concepts that seems the hardest to impart to our P90X athletes is how (or why) to peak. Even though Xers tend not to consider themselves athletes because they lack a performance-oriented goal, it’s important to understand that all training at this level adheres to athletic principles. The entire theory of “muscle confusion,” as we call it, is based on periodization, or training in targeted cycles that keep your body adapting and growing, while minimizing the plateaus that happen in between.

All periodized programs are structured around some sort of peak. This is why most of our customers get the best results during the latter phases of our programs. It’s by design. In a less intense program, customized for less conditioned clients (like Power 90), the structure is less rigid because the adaption takes longer. The fitter you are the quicker your body reacts to training.

Most science shows that a three week on, one off, cycle of training is about as short as you can go to maximize the adaptive and growth phase so that’s what we’ve used in P90X (though we often recommend that certain individuals lengthen the training blocks). The idea is the halt the growth phase before a plateau happens, recover, then re-shuffle and add intensity in the subsequent training block. In X, the final block adds a week of high intensity, at which point we recommend a break before taking your final fitness test. This is where we’ve designed your peak to happen, about a week or more after your final hard workout.

The longer you have to meet your goal the more effective your training can be because you can focus entire training cycles (the 12 weeks of P90X is one cycle) on your weak areas and still have time to blend this new strength into your body’s system for performance (integration training). This is why athletes make their biggest changes in the off-season.

But none of this helps me. I’ve got a few weeks, tops, to train (foundation, adapt, growth phases) and peak (integration and recovery phases). This requires a whole different mindset about training, which I’ll explain tomorrow.

Friday, November 06, 2009

And You Thought Warehouse Stores Just Looked Depressing

I get depressed at the thought of my food options anytime I take a road trip. Turns out this trepidation is more clinical than I thought. In a new study out of England, researchers at University College London have discovered that people with a diet high in processed foods have a 58% higher risk of depression.

Processed food link to depression: research

The perils of road food in the USA are a thing of lore; satirized in films and literature almost anywhere you look.

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's
But if you’ve ever wandered in to a big box food chain you know that we have more to fear than AM/PM markets. At least 90% of the food options are these stores falls into the convenience category, basically because only things with preservatives fit the big box model of doing business. This is probably why most of these chains now also have a drug counter, so you can fill your prescription for the Zoloft you’re going to need because of the food you’re buying.