Friday, December 30, 2011

Recaping The "Year of Fitness"

My theme at the start of the year was a Year of Fitness and, more or less, it was. I stayed mainly quite fit, trained and raced right through a few bad injuries, and find myself just as motivated as ever moving towards next year. Sure, some things could have gone better but I can honestly say that I hope a year never goes perfect. Then what would I shoot for? I presented the numbers earlier this week. Here are a few highlights in photos.

it all started with a party...

and a never-ending winter. would have been great for skiing but i had races to train for.

luckily finn prefers riding to skiing, though most early-season riding needed to be done in the desert.

and P90X2 development meant a lot of trips south

at duathlon nationals in tucson

two days after nats the first big day of the year: sedona's 'big friggin' loop'

romney on a load humping trip to a crag where the season would never start

post crash in ketchum, exploring trails instead of racing nats

with no option to climb training got a wee bit more focused.

oddly enough an article about my climbing life appeared in a year with little climbing.

overlooking the cote d'azur with friend (beachbody president) jon congdon.

on the iconic mt ventoux

gear ready for spain. body, not so much

tapering in france at 'fitness camp'. le bonne vie!

it hurts just looking at this pic

with climbing and racing plans derailled you might as well go local

mick on the final pitch of my only long climb of the year.

in the wee hours at frog hollow. helmet light obviously on a lookout for aliens.

an uninspired birthday challenge for everyone but finnegan, who clicked off 40k at over 10mph.

finishing the year like it started, training with mr. f

and enjoying the desert because now that i have time to ski there's no winter.

it seems appropriate to end with a sunset.

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2011: Training by numbers

Notes – What's specifically done is listed elsewhere on the blog and can be found under "Labels". Most rehab work falls under Mobility. Cycling and climbing training means specific training. So a ride or climbing day might or might not be termed training. Indoor training doesn’t count as riding or climbing, only as training. All runs had a purpose. I don’t run for fun but do ruke on trails. A ruke is a hike/run, generally at ultra pace. Steep hike is generally fairly arduous, like hiking up a mountain. I don’t include hikes to climbing areas unless they are significant. Ski days all XC, classic or skate. Multi-sports days are two or more sports in a day, whereas multi-workouts are two different workouts done at different times (one is usually easy). A big day is something much longer than I’ve been doing in training.

Jan-Mar: Lots of travel or would have skied more. LA Feb-Mar for X2. Soleus work done early Mar, which is why there is a hole in the running days. Sick in mid-Mar. Hard to estimate recovery days because I often will use a different discipline to recover, like climb to recover from running and riding, which would be a training day.
April: First peak, Duathlon Nats on 26th.
May: A month “off”.
June: From mid-month real training began again after racing Mtb State Champs.
July: Injured hand in crash on 14th. Didn’t affect training, just climbing. By now, 2.5 hr ride considered recovery unless it’s hard. End of month S. France trip w/ 2 big days, Ventoux and run thru Maritime Alps.
Aug: Mainly specific training for World’s.
Sept: Injured soleus on 4th. “Training” became rehabbing through World’s on 25th.
Oct: The next goal for year was to test short training on some longer events.
Nov: All training focused around recovering from 3 12-hour days.
Dec: Play month but psyched and training a lot towards the end of the year. Used my scheduled workouts to fill in the last few days of the year.

Analysis – This may look crazy but look closely and it should be pretty easy to interpret. During the winter training was steady but volume low, hence there is less rest and more structure. Towards the two peaks (Ap and Sept), training became more sports specific. Intensity and volume increases dictating more recovery days. The months following each peak had little to no structure. Finally, during the epic fall marathons everything revolved around recovering between events as opposed to trying to get fitter. Moving into the off-season the winter pattern has re-emerged.

Only did four races but all were significant:

Duathlon Nationals 12th (though knocked to 25th w/ disputed penalties)
Utah State Mtn Bike Champs 7th
Duathlong World Championships 12th
Frog Hollow 25 Hour Race 3rd in duo division

Hardest climb: 12c (not impressive but at least it was on-sight)

Big Days include: The November Trifecta, Squawstruck, Ben's BD Challenge, Mt Ventoux and a long run in the Maritime Alps, and Sedona's Big Friggin' Loop.

Friday, December 23, 2011

No Ski Lift. No Ski Hill. No Problem.

Who needs Aspen, St. Moritz, any resort or even open space in order to shred? All that's required is ingenuity and a little psyche. And if your town happens to have public transport, consider it a bonus. This is basically the winter companion of this video. Happy holidays. Now get outside and play. Rock skis optional.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Importance Of Iron Fist

Since arms are the theme this week on The ‘Dope, here’s my latest article for DPM mag: The Way of the Iron Fist. It’s a guide to forearm training using a rice bucket, accompanied by stellar video of Master Wu explaining the subtleties of eliminating your enemies using the Buddhist Palm stance.

So, other than the obvious radness of aiding your Predator handshake, just why should you train using a rice bucket?

Obviously hand strength is important for climbers. Unfortunately, both the act of climbing and most of the exercises that climbers do to strengthen their attachment to the rock, work almost exclusively on what are called the flexor muscles of the hands and forearm. This creates a massive imbalance between flexor and extensor strength that leads to an assortment of ailments including elbow and bicep tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and various injuries to the hand tendons and tendon pulleys.

Climbers aren’t the only group to have a flexor/extensor imbalance. Almost everyone does but life required doing a lot of grabbing and very little of opening your hand against resistance unless you regularly practice essence absorbing stance. If everyone used a rice bucket carpal tunnel syndrome would not exist, much less be a syndrome.

A note on rice bucket form from my friend Ed. Don’t hit the rice with your fingertips. Slide them in. You still use force but you also must employ grace. Nerve endings in your fingertips affect your vision so smashing your fingertips regularly into anything can cause your eye sight to weaken.

Finally, if you’re looking for a cheap stocking stuffer how about a subscription to The Stash at DPM? For 5 bucks a year you can get access to unending psyche with their premiere videos. Check out the one below. It’s free. Just imagine how good those in The Stash must be.

Also, unfortunately, Master Wu’s video can only be viewed by those whom he feels are worthy. Others will be re-directed to Grasshopper Ben training in The Coop.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Capacity For Strength, Technoviking, & The Predator Handshake

Lately my only consistent workout has been Friday Night Arms, an obscurity from the One on One/10 Minute Trainer series where Tony works his biceps, triceps, and forearms into oblivion in ten minutes. Why an endurance athlete, where strength to weight ratio is vital, would do this is a fair question. For the answer I present Technoviking.

No one is quite sure what the Technoviking is capable of but with arms like that do you want to find out? He’s the definition of capacity for strength.

Seriously, since my mtn bike crash in July the guns have become even smaller than the spaghetti arms I generally walk around with; not only because I focused on racing but that I was also unable to use my right hand. Coming back to climbing I’ve been feeling undo stress in my tendons because my arm muscle breaks down quicker than normal. Some added girth, especially when it’s trained for power, will alleviate stress on the tendons. All in all weight worth having.

Plus, if you don’t work your arms how else will you do the Carl Weathers/Arnold handshake from Predator? Barry Bonds may have hit more home runs than Mark McGuire but, when you think of that era, you’ve got to admit the Big Mac’s arms are what you visualize. Actors know it. The Shat, to prepare for his time on the bridge of the Enterprise, did nothing but curls. Ricardo Montalban, as his nemesis Khan, requested that he be scanity clad to show off his guns. And my friend Elijah, a very strong climber, once did an entire training program for his biceps and triceps and nothing else. Arms matter.

The name of the video comes from a time when Tony and his buddies would spend Friday nights in the gym training nothing but arms to “get girls”. And while Tony claims it didn’t work back then it does now. Late one night, while we were working on a training routine in a hotel gym a drunk girl stumbled in, mumbled something about Tony’s arms being “kind of a turn on,” and hung around staring until her wine glass had apparently been empty too long. We laughed but there’s a reason both Tony and Elijah love to kiss their biceps. It’s because they know that when one day Carl Weathers appears before them in a third world jungle bar, they’ll be ready for a proper greeting.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

P90X2 For Outdoor Sports V: An Off-Season Schedule

I’ve officially decided to recommend flipping phases one and two of P90X2 for most outdoor athletes. I also think you should practice some of the phase one workouts during your rest phase at the end of the season before you begin training.

My rationale is that it’s better to avoid doing a lot of sport-specific training when you’re gaining muscle and phase II targets hypertrophy. In a perfect world you’d do the phases in order but most cyclists, runners, and climbers are lucky to take a month away from their sports, and those are the ones who get paid. Recreational athletes—who play sports for fun—have a very hard time stepping away from their sports at all. Bringing phase II to the fore lessens the chance of overuse injury because sports-specific training should, at worst, be base fitness and nothing your body can’t handle while it’s gaining muscle.

Without further ado, here’s what I’m doing this off-season.

I 2 “practice weeks"

II Phase II for 4 weeks.

Auxiliary training will be hang board training also based on hypertrophy (details later). The bikes will stay out of sight and I’ll ski for fun and aerobic conditioning. I’ll attend the Ritte training camp at the end of January (get destroyed) and then move into...

Phase I for 3 weeks.

Auxiliary training will be climbing on my wall and other more intense climbing training and a few cycling sessions, mainly on the trainer, as well as skiing.

Phase III for 4 weeks.

Since this phase is so intense all other training will be based around how well I recover from the workouts. Hopefully I’ll be testing (again) some PAP training for climbing. I’d like to have a climbing peak in April/May as I’m also building my cycling fitness.

So that is the overview and, of course, it will change somewhat as it goes down as that’s what programs inevitably do. I’m excited about it. Base fitness was excellent last year and I’m thinking it’ll be even better in 2012.

pic: a preview of ritte's winter training camp.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

P90X2 For Outdoor Sports IV: Goals & Reality

Now that you’ve assessed your goals and timeline you want to look the reality of just how much you can train. Most of us are not full-time professional athletes and need to be time efficient. There are too many variables to address in one post (or book) so I’ll carve out my plan as an example.

Let’s begin with my personal assessment of yesterday’s topic. Most of my goals are far off so scheduling my program is fairly simple. Still, however, three months is too long for most of us to be away from our sports. So I will be altering the P90X2 structure to allow more time for sport-specific training to occur as the season approaches.

Last year I averaged about 1.5 hours of training a day, which includes dog exercise (a post on multi-tasking this will be part of this series). I tested this on a series of long events during the month of November. A post on this is coming, too, but the gist is that it’s possible to train fairly short for very long events. Not optimal but it can work. Anyways, 1.5 hours isn’t a lot when each X2 workout takes an hour.

My goals for the year are a mixture of short and long events and I think I can strategize how to train for both in 1.5 hours a day. I’m 51, so you’ll see that theme at work as I present my 2012 tick list.

5 first ascents, 1 5.13
5 long days, 1 grade V in a day

5 races, 1 100 mile
5 big days, 1 multi-day self-supported

Running & Skiing
No goals but to improve and get 100% healthy as there will be running and skiing on the ’13 agenda.

Current assessment: Back in the days when I had a ton of free time this wouldn’t have been a problem. With my current schedule, however, it’s going to take a lot of planning and discipline to get it done. The training is almost the easy part but I want to do well in the races so it’s got to stay focused. Also, I’m trying to climb at what is my limit these days, at least for one peak, and I’ve never been in 5.13 and bike race shape at the same time, so there’s a lifetime achievement goal on the agenda, which is always good for motivation.

I need a very high level of base fitness to make this happen, which is precisely why nothing is scheduled early. I want to be able to do a full unabridged round of P90X2. I also want to come out of my winter training ready to climb hard so some multi-tasking will be in order. If I can tick off my power goals in the spring it’ll be much easier because I can focus on endurance as the days get long. Now that my agenda is clear I’m ready to draw up a plan. I’ll post it tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

P90X2: How To Design A Sport-Specific Training Program

As you sit down to embark on next season’s training plans here are a few things to keep in mind as you’re sorting out how P90X2 is going to fit into your year. I’ve written a lot about designing programs, both using Beachbody programs and not, and at this point in your planning P90X2 is no different than anything else because we’re simply looking at the big picture of when to target non sport-specific weaknesses and when to integrate sports training back in.

These two articles, written for P90X, will help you get the gist of what your training structure should look like:

Customizing P90X for Specific Goals: Part I

Endurance Athletes: Get Ripped in the Off-Season

Your first consideration is time. How long until your first event and, more precisely, how long until your important event? All training should be planned around a peak. In any given year we can probably peak twice and your most intense phase of off-season training should at the furthest point from these goals. So, for example, if you want to peak in February and again in October you’re better off scheduling a short cycle of training now and more off-season oriented training beginning in March. If you’re two peaks are late spring and fall—very common for both climbers and endurance athletes—now’s the time to get going.

If you’re of the former scenario, P90X2 can be utilized in a short cycle of training. Here’s an article on how that might work.

Customizing P90X for Skiing: How to Structure a Short Training Cycle

That’s enough reading for today. Tomorrow I’ll be back with my personal goals for 2012 and how I plan to schedule my training phases using P90X2.

pic: my schedule from winter 2010

Monday, December 12, 2011

P90X2: Practice Week

Using P90X2 for outdoor sports requires an evaluation process that each of us must do in order to schedule it the most sensible way. This week I’ll post on the aspects of this while concurrently doing some of the workouts in what I call a practice week.

One of the principles of X2 is based on the specificity of adaptation. This is true of every exercise program we’ve made but it’s never been pushed as far as we’re taking it this time. For some of you learning the movements of this program will be like learning how to dance. When the movements you’re learning click (like in the pic) is when you’re going to start seeing crazy progress so I’m getting a jump on it while I’m still in recovery mode.

“Core should be the first workout because it teaches you so much,” said Steve Holmsen, one of the program’s developers who’s also Tony’s ski buddy and the guy who got him psyched on balance training. And, in fact, all of phase I of the program is about learning. But we outdoor athletes might be best served to alter the schedule to accommodate our sport-specific training. I will go into this later but, for now, consider jump starting your winter program with some practice.

When I’m in recovery mode I play. I still exercise, sometimes a lot, but I have no targets or goals and I certainly don’t diet. Sometimes, like this year, I have injuries and when I do I will keep going with my rehab. So my play schedule has been basically climbing, easy riding, and easy running/hiking (ruking) along with stability workouts like this and this. And also Friday Night Arms, which I’ll go into in a separate post.

With that in mind my practice week looks like this.

Daily: whatever I want/have time for sports wise.

Practice schedule:

Day 1: X2 Core
Day 2: X2 Mobility
Day 3: Friday Night Arms & rice bucket
Day 4: X2 Power and Balance
Day 5: Shoulder and pelvic stability & X2 Mobility

Friday, December 09, 2011

P90X2 For Outdoor Athletes

I’m going to be starting a round of P90X2 designed to get me ready for a season of riding, running, and climbing. Today’s Psyche post is on the above photo of the package sitting in my garage that was followed by Twitter and Facebook posts, “There's a package sitting on the floor containing P90X2 and collateral material that's burning a hole in my post-challenge recovery mode.” All pre-orders should be in transit. If you don’t have yours yet it’ll be there any day. Anyone interested in sport-specific training should join me.

P90X changed the landscape of home fitness training forever. P90X2 is going to raise the standard, particularly for those of us who participate in athletic activities. One of my promotional articles (for, I think) concluded with a line about how I’ve never been so excited for off-season training to start. I’ve been tinkering with this program for years and it’s finally coming to fruition. I’m psyched.

like presents under a tree, the x2 kit begging me to action.

Over the next few months my goal is not only to get into tip-top shape, but to preemptively answer your questions about sport-specific training with X2. Put this blog on your favorites list and tag along. It’s going to be a helluva fun ride.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

First American Female To...

Climb 9a. For you who don't speak climbing just know it's really, really hard. Hence "first".

Sasha DiGiulian. "Pure Imagination" 5.14d (9a). from Adidas Outdoor on Vimeo.

Been too busy to write so this is going to be triple Psyche week. This is round two. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Trouble With Trouble

For this weekend’s Psyche here’s a good vid of Emily Harrington battling with Waka Flocka, a route in Rifle. Projects aren’t easy, otherwise they’d have been finished, and here Harrington deals with some of the issues any of us who’ve had one go through. It’s inspiring, well done, and makes me want to get outside. Luckily I’m in California this weekend. Think I’ll head out to the crags right now...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Questions, Answers, and Song

Denis and I did an impromptu video chat this afternoon that you might find entertaining. Since no one was around at first we began with a bit of movie banter. As the word got out we progressed to a standard fitness and nutrition q and a session until a little challenge got Keith the Dude to provide a human beat box for one of Denis’ old high school raps.

My chats have changed to video format recently. They are generally full of detailed information that stays pretty much on topic. Today was different. You’ll have to decide if it was better or worse but it was certainly a lot more fun.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Birthday Pretty Hard

There are many sayings we use to describe Birthday Challenge. Perhaps the most popular is one coined by David Brainard during the abyss of my 40th 40-day adventure when things we going decidedly un-well. I think I had a nasty cold and was complaining about the prospect of spending yet another day outside in the rain when DB riffed off the theme from Mission Impossible. “It’s not birthday pretty hard,” he stated with his best Anthony Hopkins impression. “It’s birthday challenge.” It not only got me outside in a good mood that day, it’s become my measuring stick for challenges ever since.

Well, at least until this year. A challenge, by definition, requires an element of the unknown and a seed of doubt. Knowing that I’ll finish if I simply continue is not enough and I gauge the worth of my year’s quest by how many people tell me I’m crazy. This year, however, was never meant to be one of those epics and that lack of focus allowed it to unravel as soon as conditions went south, which is an ever-present issue for me since my parents decided to give birth during a shoulder season.

“Number one, I don’t want to get injured,” was Bob’s objective for our first duo challenge. No stranger to big suffering, he’d spent most of the year in rehab and didn’t want to go back. And since I, too, am coming off injury it became out theme, which is not exactly the devil-may-care attitude needed for success when you go big. Still, we carved out an aesthetic little epic on the eastside flank of the Sierra—a point to point adventure featuring road and mountain biking along with more climbing than 99% would ever consider in a day. But as soon as the weather altered our original line our lack of commitment began to show. We started late, never recovered, and ended up with what was, for us, little more than a big day of exercise; the definition of birthday pretty hard.

The 50/40 challenge

50 kilometers of road biking – the only thing that could be considered cruxy was the cold. It was very very cold.

40 kilometers of mountain biking – With our original line snowed in we deviated to one of the more mundane rides I’ve ever done on a hippie rig. Pretty though.

50 routes on sight
(combined total, so 25 each) – This was supposed to be 40 each but, frankly, we were bored as the climbing area we chose was not exactly inspiring. Most of the routes we did wouldn’t get a star elsewhere (though the guidebook seemed to love em). We thought the place was so bad we’re not going to mention where it was lest we damper your enthusiasm should you venture there. Climbing is an individual sport. Maybe you’ll love it.

We were supposed to do 50 boulder problems but those, too, were under snow meaning that we’d have to do this at a place we’d been to many times. This sounded very boring as there was no question of success so, again, we left it at pretty hard.

So basically we did what amounts to a grade V big wall climb on sight and rode 90k on our bikes. 12 hours of exercise; a hard day but nothing that will make to annals of birthday challenge.

it was, however, a proper bd challenge for finn who ran 40k averaging more than 10mph.

PS – It was my third 12-hour training day in a three-week period, which is worth an assessment. I’ll reflect on this in another post.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

P90X2 Prep: Block 3

With the release of P90X2 imminent here are some final tips to have you read to take it on at full strength. While you’ve probably heard a lot about post-activation potentiation (PAP) in the various promos or, at least, on my blog, what might not have been made clear is exactly why you only see it during the final phase of the program. In answering this you’ll see why your final block of prep should be tailored very specifically for you personally.

Essentially, PAP needs to be earned. It’s only effective if you have the fitness base to withstand its rigors, which forces you to follow a heavy contraction exercise immediately with a 100% effort explosive exercise. And not for 30 seconds or a minute, but only for a few seconds, meaning that for the first time in a Beachbody program you’re being asked to give a one rep max effort--though one that’s been tempered by a set to failure (or close) of heavy resistance.

pap example at p3 from gordon hayward of the utah jazz

If you’re not physically ready the first set of exercise will wipe you out. However, once conditioned the resistance effort actually frees up higher threshold muscle cell motor units which, in brief, allows your muscles to work at higher explosive outputs than normal. When you train this process you increase your muscular efficiency that, in layman’s terms, means that your muscles get stronger without gaining any size, which not only improves your ability to perform now but also increases your capacity for hypertrophy (muscle growth).

So, anyway, I’m sure that sounds cool but here’s the rub; you don’t need to practice PAP training, you need to get fit for it. So block 3 of your prep should be to improve at whatever your weaknesses are up to this point.

If you don’t feel you have weaknesses you could start working on PAP with Tony’s One on One workout (see top vid). This workout isn’t dialed as Tony was just starting to learn about it but it’s cool in that it’s both an upper and lower body PAP workout and provides a template for you to create your own workout variations if you get time crunched while doing X2. Like pretty much everything, you improve at doing complexes with practice so trying this out now will provide benefits by the time you get to phase III of X2. You could also try this workout (added video of heel slide - aka "wall slide").

However, if you are still learning the balance movements from block 1 and block 2, I recommend that you spend more time focused on these. The better you get at these movements the quicker you will respond to the program. When you get to the point—like big wave surfer Laird Hamilton—where you can do heavy movements on unstable platforms as if you were on a concrete floor (note cameo by Shakeology guru Darin Olien) your strength gains are going to go through the roof. And then when you add PAP training to a base like that your body’s going to take you places you’d never dreamed you’d be able to go.

Final teaser: P90X2 is on schedule for early December delivery. Get psyched.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The R Series

Jenn Flemming - The "R" Series from DPM CLIMBING on Vimeo.

Here’s part I of a new DPMclimbing series on scary climbs. It’s one last Psyche to help tick your project before winter sets in. This vid features Jenn Flemming on a naturally-protected 5.13 in Eldo called Fraid Line. It’s a very professionally done film and part of DPM’s new Stash series, which promises to be well worth the paltry annual fee of 5 bucks (yes, you read that correctly).

R = “Runout, some protection placements may be very far apart (possibility of serious injury exists, even when properly protected).

Thursday, November 17, 2011

P90X2 and Sports Performance

P3 performance vid: aka people who jump higher than you

Here are two published articles about P90X2 and increase sports performance in two different realms. The first (penned by yours truly) appears on and, not surprisingly, addresses its effectiveness on endurance athletes. The second highlights how it will affect explosive athletes and features an interview with Dr. Marcus Elliott.

While this dichotomy might be illicit some confusion since a common sentiment is that power and endurance don’t mix, we both provide rationale for a changing idiom. For example, here's my brief explanation on how increased power, or muscular efficiency, can lead to improved performance during endurance sports.

The goal of the final phase is to transfer the strength gains you've made into muscular efficiency. While explosiveness isn't a goal for many endurance athletes, muscular efficiency can enable you to engage higher threshold muscle cell motor units at lower aerobic outputs. If that description draws a blank, you'll probably understand this; muscular efficiency allows you to save precious glycogen stores for later points in a race, which is often the difference between finisher and medalist.

Dr. Elliott goes on to analyze how the program works and the importance of both power and stability for athletes of all types, primarily those in power sports. He sums up his interview with:

It’s more than just losing weight or bulking up. You will wake up proprioceptive awareness, balance and a sense of stability with the legs, trunk and shoulders. The PAP segments will improve athleticism with big and powerful movements. It’s about making your body feel like its designed to be an athlete.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

In The Wake...

This week’s Psyche offers some reflection in the wake of part II of my November trilogy of pain, along with a couple of short videos that are follow-ups to earlier posts. First, I’ve cancelled this weekend’s trip south because moving is such a chore that I doubt its training effects would have been positive. In the last 7 days I’ve completed two big days that offered up completely different experiences. Here’s a little comparison.

The 25 Hours of Frog Hollow – Spending 12.5 on the bike in a day in every-other-lap fashion is a strange lesson in suffering. The down time between each lap is mainly spent refueling and arranging things for your next lap. You end up with about 15 minutes to relax before you need to get moving again. While it’s less painful than soloing, because you get some rest, you also can’t cash it in and nap when you’re tired because you know you’ve got a partner counting on you to show up every hour and ten minutes or so. Sitting on a bike for this long is simply painful, especially for your butt, feet, and hands. The latter got so pounded on the rocky descents that Jeff, my partner, switched to his suspension bike during the last few laps. And while you’re very tired at the end recovery is quick. I was back on my bike feeling decent (though not strong) in a few days.

11 Beachbody workouts – I’d stacked Beachbody workouts together before but nothing like this. The first four felt good but all of our workouts (unless you only chose recovery workout which wouldn’t be very interesting) break you down. I was slightly surprised that Power 90 and Slim in 6 still felt like exercise at their easiest level even though I’m fairly fit at the moment. These workouts shouldn’t be discounted. They’re the real deal. Reversing the order would have made sense but I was also after a chronological experience and, unfortunately, our workouts have been getting harder over the years.

And so Asylum Game Day (and last-minute addition Overtime) at the end were a fantastic trip to the pain exchange. Not surprising, since these workouts are extremely difficult and painful when done fresh, it was simply a bizarre experience to be screaming to keep up after many hours of training featuring workouts designed to be your only activity of the day. And while my explosiveness was kaput I managed to hit Shaun’s number benchmarks for “winning” (I think it’s 40 jump shots and 50 home runs) meaning that I never slacked off. In Overtime I hit a wall, big time, struggled mightily not to puke but this didn’t surprise me at all since that is certainly the hardest 12 minutes of exercise ever put on video.

By comparison the gym training is somewhat easier in that it’s got no outside elements such as cold and wind and no single points of overuse where your skin becomes a limiting factor. You can always turn down the intensity a notch and minimize the pain. However, because the workouts (by my designed line up of choice) systematically targeted all elements of body movement and fitness the overall breakdown factor was far more complete. Last night, trying to sit through a symphony, I could feel every muscle competing for limited resources for recovery and it was a struggle to stay awake. This morning, with the healing process still in its infancy, it took a big commitment to force my body out of bed. And while, in contrast to the 24 hour race when I had hot spots of pain, nothing really hurts; it just refuses to work. Translation (which should not be a surprise): the home training is better for you than playing a sport. Also, because the breakdown is specific the process of replenishing full body strength is going to take a lot longer.

And with that, here’s your weekend entertainment, both in the form of trailers. First (top), we have a video on the El Cap races. I’ve written about this a lot but this year, Hans again got himself fit enough (at 47 with a full time job) to have a go. In three tries with young hot shot Alex Honnald he’s come within 45 seconds of the record set last year by Sean O’Leary and Dean Potter. He says he’s now got the fitness to break it but the duo is waiting for the weather to improve and may not get another attmept 'til spring.

I’m saving my Wideboyz follow up for a training Psyche in the depths of winter but those interested know what they’ve done. Here is another trailer for what promises to be a cracking good time at the movies (silly pun not intended. I'm tired). And you want to take about pain? Well nothing I’ve described in the post comes close to this.

Wide Boys climb Century Crack from chris Alstrin on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Historical Tour of Beachbody, with Sweat

On 11/11/11 I’ll be living a historical tour of Beachbody by doing 11 workouts that date back 11 years. If you play along, even just in part, you stand a chance to win $1,111 by logging into the WOWY Supergym during the hour of 11:11 PST. It’s only going to be 11/11/11 once in your life. You might as well do something special.

jon and carl in 1999

Besides trying to set a daily record for Supergym attendance this date has some personal significance. One year ago tomorrow we lost Tuco the Rat and the outside portion of my challenge is dedicated to him (oh, yes, there’s more). I also did challenges on 8/8/8, 9/9/9, and 10/10/10 so this is a tradition. Finally, it’s part II of my November endurance trifecta that began last weekend with a 24 hour mtn bike race (3rd place) and will finish with a birthday challenge Thanksgiving weekend.

I’ve tried to choose workout that make physiological sense for the challenge. Not getting injured is paramount and this should be a good overall workout, even though it’s excessive. Admittedly PAP at the end is silly stupid but it’s too important to leave out. That’s because I’m also telling a story, which is my own personal history working at Beachbody.

#1 Power 90 Sculpt 1/2 (2000)
While not the first Beachbody workout released (which was Great Body Guaranteed) it was the first hit and first workout that I did to evaluate whether or not I wanted to work with the company. I was currently working as a fitness columnist and wasn’t going to shuck for an infomercial company unless their products made sense. Carl and Jon assured me that if their products didn’t live up to my standards they would improve them until they did. Not only was Power 90 solid but it was being led by a guy with charisma to spare. This had potential, I thought, to revamp home fitness. I signed on and the rest, as they say, is history that’s about to pay me back in a very painful way. “Things are startin’ to happen.”

#2 Ho Ala ke Kino (2001)
I’m testing everyone’s dedication to Beachbody with this obscurity. We once doubled as a travel company and had a trip called Power Kauai. Tony Horton and Debbie Siebers would lead workouts for the clients and one morning Tony did a workout on the beach that got filmed and voila! Or something like that. This is a funny low budget feature that still holds up as great workout. “You guys ever do this workout?” said Carl to the staff one day (when you could address the entire company without raising your voice). “Man, if you ever want to feel good check it out.”

pretty sure i have some short shorts to wear for this

#3 Slim in 6 Start It Up (2002)
Our second big hit was a low impact program that subtly breaks you down until you’re begging for mercy. It’s by design but also might have something to do with the fact that Debbie doesn’t always know her own strength. She can do squats as easily as most of us sit in a chair. In one of the Slim Series workouts she’s actually still squatting while telling the audience “we’re taking a little break here.” I’m using Start It Up because, well, I’m not in such specific squat shape and we’re still kind of warming up. But I’ve got the original version, which we had to tone way down because it was destroying people out of the gate, so it’s going to hurt. Btw, the long version of Slim Series is Beachbody’s first graduate program and probably not in your collection. These workouts still hold up—and feel very hard—even after the Insanity years.

debbie taking a rest

#4 Power Half Hour Arms (2003)
“Bam!” This super intense set of 30 minute workouts was the cornerstone of many unofficial test groups I used with our customers to try and sort out how hard they were going to be willing to work in P90X. Because of this they will always have a fond place in my heart and, while decidedly low budget, they stand the test of time and remain in my arsenal. We didn’t shoot these in 2003 but we did launch one of our only failed infomercials that year about PHH. This is unfortunate because it was amazing. It’s also really weird because the entire company (now big enough you had to raise your voice a little) agreed it was the best infomercial they’d ever seen. Carl and Jon decided to chuck that standard format and go legit, using nothing by real people and stories without any glitz whatsoever. We found it incredibly powerful. When it didn’t hit we focus grouped it where the main complaint was “the people don’t seem real.” Go figure.

its time has still yet to come

#5 P90X Core Synergistics (2004)
P90X would eventually change the entire fitness landscape but not in 2004. When it launched our customer base ate it up but the rest of America was, like, “Wtf?! Dude, give me back my Ab Lounger!” Eventually we were able convey the basic science that human bodies require hard work in order to look like Tony Horton. And once converted, it seems like all you wanted was more. And this made my job a lot more fun. “Bring it!”

#6 Yoga Booty Ballet Pure & Simple Yoga (2005)
I’m not sure what year we shot this, actually, but from here on out the challenge is going to be a fight to the finish and pulling the yoga card from YBB means that I don’t have to do it for a harder program. I also wanted to throw some love Gill and Teigh’s way since they’re great people. Wildly popular on the west side of LA, YBB never struck a consistent chord with our customers. But that doesn’t mean the workouts are any less effective. If you’re looking for something different to simulate your training give it a shot.

#7 Chalean Extreme Push Circuit 3 (2006)
The first time I met Chalene Johnson I felt she’d be our next superstar trainer. Obviously I didn’t know since I was still waiting for the PHH show to hit but, anyway, she had the it quality Hollywood types are always yappin about. Like Tony Horton, only different. And while we had a lot of success with Turbo Jam her next program, Chalean Extreme, never quite took off. This is too bad because it’s a great program. The problem could be the title. It’s an intro program and perhaps Extreme is scaring off part of its audience. But like Slim in 6, just because anyone can start it doesn’t mean fit folks will find it easy. The workouts, especially as the program progresses, will challenge anyone. Of course it still might take off. It took a few years for P90X to find traction and I’m still thinking Power Half Hour's ascendency is on the cusp.

#8 Insanity, The Asylum’s Game Day (2007)
I’m cheating here because Asylum launched in 2011 but I was only going to get one representative from the Insanity series and Game Day fits the bill perfectly. At least if it doesn’t kill me. Apparently P90X wasn’t enough for you guys so we offered up a stiffer challenge, which you went after like Fluffy on catnip. I wonder what the people who said we were nuts while filming P90X would have thought watching Shaun drop mega fit trainers during the filming of Insanity like Brock Lesner with an overhand right? Then we went even bigger with Asylum, which is my personal favorite workout series at the moment (at least until P90X2 comes out). Game Day is its pinnacle and it’s an absolute blast. So painful; but with a 4th quarter with the game on the line kind of way that takes me back to my youth. “This is not Insanity, people. It’s the Asylum. I’m not messin’ with you today.”

definitive asylum shot: it's a fine line between resting and vomiting

#9 RevAbs Strength & Endurance (2008)
Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Most Beachbody customers are now well aware that to get a six-pack you need to train your entire body. The public, perhaps, is not and maybe they think RevAbs is a workout series done on the Ab Lounge and that's why it's yet to spend any time at number one. This full body program based around Capoeira is led by one of our most intellectual trainers, Brett Hoebel, whom I love working with because I don’t have to edit anything he writes. So buy RevAbs if for no other reason than you’ll make my job easier. Thank you.

#10 Turbo Fire HIIT 15 (2009)
“Ya gotta dance with the one that brung ya,” said Darrell Royal and we listened, putting Chalene back in front of a class and shooting verite style to create Turbo Fire. In actuality development was more scientific than that but TF is like going to class down at the gym. Except you don’t have to go to the gym or choose which class you need to get the quickest results. It’s kind of like going dancing except there are scientists in the background making sure each move you do strategically benefits your physiology. On HIIT days the band is particularly enthusiastic.

#11 P90X One on One PAP (2010)

This is a P90X2 preview and a great example of the full circle world of Beachbody. I came to Beachbody after mainly working with athletes. And while I found the non-athletic community great to work with—both easier to train and far more appreciative—sports performance is my forte and in my roots (both dad and I were coaches). Getting back to, as the old coach said above, what brung me has been my most interesting as well as greatest challenge yet at Beachbody. And while you’ve read plenty about PAP, my buddy Marcus and his training facility P3, here on my blog over the last few years you’ve never seen it implemented like this. I’m sure I’ll learn a little more by the day’s end. Assuming I survive as Marcus, nor any other trainer worth their schooling, would recommend PAP at the end of this kind of day.

tonys shows the it compared to my decidedly not it star quality as we banter about pap

But wait, there’s more! In honor of the best dog ever I’m adding 111 minutes of outside activity, either running or riding depending on the weather. During this time I’ll throw 111 rocks for Finnegan. At least I’ll be warmed up after Game Day.

we miss ya, buddy

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

P90X2 Prep: The mc2 Version

It was brought to my attention that we never presented a schedule for those who purchased the entire P90X2 preview series: P90Xmc2. While I’ve covered a lot of how to use it to prepare for the real thing in the first two posts of this series, today I’ll provide specific guidelines for those using mc2 only. You will still want to read the two previous entries on X2 prep:

Part I

Part II

The reason we didn’t provide literature with mc2 is that it sold mainly to a savvy group of Xers who know the program’s philosophies inside and out. We didn’t have to instruct them how to plug and play the various workouts Tony would come up with for One on One. We also didn’t film them in any kind of specific order so a schedule wouldn’t have done any good until you had the complete series.

Since we’re now peddling to a wider audience ordering all of the workouts at once, here you go. Keep in mind there are a ton of individual variables you might want to consider, most of which are addressed somewhere in this blog. Use the search function (“customizing P90X” is a good place to start) or click on various labels to whittle down your research.

In a perfect world each training block would be done for 3-6 weeks but, with X2 out in less than two months, you might want to employ more of a practice schedule consisting of doing each week once and then spending a little time training the workouts you’re worst at. While this won’t allow your body to peak it will prepare you for P90X2 so that you’ll adapt quicker to that program, leading to faster overall fitness improvements.

Block I

Day 1: Core Syn mc2
Day 2: Plyocide
Day 3: Shoulders & Arms: mc2
Day 4: Yoga m2
Day 5: Stretch and Recovery
Day 6: Chest, Back, and Balls
Day 7: Rest

Block II

Day 1: V Sculpt
Day 2: Plyocide
Day 3: Upper Body X
Day 4: ARX 2
Day 5: Base and Back
Day 6: Yoga mc2
Day 7: Rest

Block III

Day 1: PAP
Day 2: ARX 2
Day 3: Yoga mc2
Day 4: Core Syn mc2
Day 5: PAP
Day 6: Stretch and Recovery
Day 7: Rest

Should you do the entire rotation in full blocks you’ll probably need a recovery week between blocks I and II but not III because it’s very different. A good recovery week would be doing Yoga, Core Syn, and ARX 2 once and Stretch twice, or else doing any activities that you like as long as they don’t have heavy resistance training.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Heel Slide: The Most Important Exercise You’ve Never Heard Of

If I told you that adding one exercise movement to your workout could reduce your likelihood of injuring your knee by 90% would you be interested? If so, this is your lucky day. Introducing the heel slide.

You’ve heard me talk about heel slides for some time but I’ve finally gotten around to shooting a proper instructional video. While this movement is easy to do once your understand it, the position you need to get into is subtle and requires some explanation. This movement should be done two or three times per week, either alone (as shown) or tacked on to the end of any lower-body workout.

While originally slated for P90X2 we replaced it because it requires a body length of open wall space, which is something surprisingly hard to find in many people’s homes. You also contact your heel with the wall, which could blemish your house, further complicating the scenario. We thus replaced it with a similarly-effective movement but for those of you with the space, I suggest swapping heel slides for an exercise we called Tony’s Triangle during Phase 3 or, at least, alternating between the two. I would also highly suggest adding it to whatever routine you’re currently doing.

So what’s the big deal?

All the credit for this exercise goes to Dr. Marcus Elliott and P3 because I’d never seen it before training there. I knew the importance of strengthening the gluteus medius but the movements I’d been show by various trainers and physical therapist paled in comparison. In fact, most of them allowed me to unknowingly cheat and use larger muscles to shoulder the burden of the movement, actually creating a further muscular imbalance—so essentially there we heightening the problem they were supposed to fix.

Anyway, anyone who follows sports knows that more athletes break down than ever before. It seems like society accepts this as a byproduct to becoming bigger, stronger, and faster but research has shown that to be fallacy. We are breaking down because we are unstable in our hips (and shoulders). This causes a biomechanical tracking problem that radiates through the body. Someone who lacks hip stability puts excessive force on their joints each time they move. Add enough force to the equation and breakdown occurs, usually at the weak link, our soft connective tissues. This is so prevalent that “torn ACL” is about as well understood today as “I’ve got a headache.”

As proven by Elliott and his staff, this is mostly preventable. Studies done on elite athletes have shown that instances of hip instability usually exceed 90%, meaning knee injury is a when not if scenario. Teams trained by Elliott have seen instances of non-contact knee injuries drop to virtually zero. And most of this is corrected by one thing; strengthen a small muscle called the gluteus medius.

chicago white sox all star carlos quentin showing proper heel slide technique at p3

But this is not as simple as finding the muscle and isolating it. The pelvic girdle is a complex area where muscles wrap around bones and joints and criss cross each other. When out of alignment the body reacts in a way where the larger muscles will take over the motions that should rely on smaller ones that exacerbate imbalance. When this happens we tighten up. Our posture fails, followed by our movement patterns. No amount of stretching or adjusting will fix it because the imbalance we simply pull us right back out of alignment until all the muscle are strengthened and taught to work together properly.

Granted, heel slides alone won’t fix all the imbalances along your kinetic chain (though P90X2 is designed to do just that). But adding them to your routine is a great place to start.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Train Hard. Go Big.

November is Go Big month, and you can win some money by playing along and you don’t even need to bother with the go big part. On 11/11/11 Beachbody is having a contest where if you’re working out in the Supergym at 11:11 you could win $1,111. Actually you can be logged in at any time during the hour and you’ll be qualified. It’s free so why wouldn’t you? Your odds are pretty good. And I’ll be there, most of the day, since 11/11/11 is going to be an eleven-hour epic; one of three big days on the calendar this November.

2011 has been one of the more consistent training years of my life. I’ve logged everything and missed almost nothing that I’d planned. Unfortunately it’s been one of the worst for big days and challenges as my schedule has forced my training/events around small windows of opportunity. Now I’m about to test a train short/go long theory on something that is always advised against even for those who train long: three big days in a month (technically closer to 3 weeks). Let’s see what an hour of daily training can do for you when pushed into survival mode.

These are:

The 25 hours of Frog Hollow – I’ll be doing this as a duo, making it a 12.5 hour interval challenge

11/11/11 – The tradition continues 8/8/8, 9/9/9, 10/10/10

11/22 (or thereabouts) – Birthday Challenge

It’s actually not a theory but rather an experiment to see how (if is probably a better word) it works. Long days absolutely get easier when you’re used to them. Chalk this November up to lab rat syndrome; as Beachbody’s white mouse is once again placed into the maze of uncertainty in the name of science.

title of this post is what the anne-marie, title character in blue crush, has written on her mirror in lipstick in the first scene after she trains on the beach. i couldn’t find it so you get highlights of the film; basically gratuitious shots of hot chicks surfing with a lot of good wipeouts, which somehow seemed appropriate still as I’m about to get crushed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

El Cap Report: “I Wake Up... Psyched”

Kevin: This spring with the water coming off the top. You're in the shade and the wall is getting skimmed by the sun, and there's a million water drops in the air, hovering. And then going down and coming back up. Incredible.

Tommy: The first time we saw it, we just stopped and were like, “wow, this is really beautiful”. Then it would pummel us and we're like, “It’s not so beautiful anymore.”

You're living in this vertical world. It's not like you're just going on a
little trip up the wall. It's like “This is where I live.”

VIDEO Part 2: BD athletes Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson attempting to free El Cap's hardest climb from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

Currently Tommy Caldwell is living on the side of El Capitan trying to free climb his five-year project. What began as almost a joke in order to get some cool stuff on film is on the cusp of reality. If he succeeds the route will be the hardest and most sustained bit of big wall climbing on earth, by far. Unfortunately, his partner, Kevin Jorgeson, had to pack it up for the season after injuring his ankle on an eight foot sideways dyno (see vid). So Tommy’s at it alone, belayed by his wife, milking the very short window between fall and winter when free climbing temperatures on El Cap peak.

kevin’s topo. click here for climbing mag's readable version. in one 9 pitch section 7 are 5.14, 3 of those 14+.

This week's Psyche is launching a little late because I needed to wait for the weekend to have enough time to read the entire transcript of a great interview by Dougald MacDonald about the history of this project. It’s a long read and probably too detailed to be of interest to most. But if you’re the type who gets captivated by accounts of people who attempt audacious things consider it required.

K: ...You go through so many mental states doing that
pitch. It starts with tips liebacking for 40 ft. Then you get the wet
section. You have to deal. Then you're trying to recover and it's wet...

T: Climbing like 5.13 totally like slimy wet.

Dougald: Kevin, you described [this] on your way out. You get to a jug finally, but the jug is soaking wet.

K: You have to figure out how to dry yourself out in the middle of these
hard moves. So it's been like 15 minutes and you're getting out of the
wet stuff and... and then you have to do this really hard crux at the top of the pitch. And it's this endeavor, you leave the ledge and you're like, “here we go”. You're in it. You give it everything. You know what you're getting into. It's gonna be like “full on experience”. It's cool. It's really cool. (But) It's intimidating when you're on the ledge.

Dougald: I would think, because knowing that you might have to do it more
than once, too, if something goes wrong.

K: Especially with that pitch, it has a really hard move at the top. You go
through a lot of scary and hard and wet climbing to get there. You
gotta like lift the car off the baby with that undercling move.

T: There's so many pitches... if you think of like heady single pitches
around... there are 9 or 10 pitches on this route above and beyond
anything I've done in that genre of climbing.

The interview covers not just the history but the physical training and other mental challenges involved with such an ordeal. It’ll probably make you tougher just by reading it.

T: There's gonna be a lot of times, and there have been a lot of times, where you're gonna be pretty tired. And you have to be like, “all right, I gotta suck it up and just do this right now” so, I try and do multiple workouts where I climb all day and then try and go do something hard at the end of the day. Not too many people do that, I feel like. Get a little tired, and then “I'm done”.

If you ever think your own personal projects are too daunting give it a chance over a cup of joe (or pot). It will likely change your perspective on what is possible.

T: I love the fact that it keeps me motivated to train throughout the year. I've always loved to have these looming goals. I wake up in the morning thinking about them, getting super psyched. And that's worth it, even if I never did the project, having that there is awesome for me. You have to think of it that way.

Check progress on Tommy's Twitter feed.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

P90X2 Prep: Block II

Remember back to the very first day you tried P90X? Unless you couldn’t do pull-ups this was likely one of the more devastating physical experiences of your life. The P90X Chest & Back workout was nearly impossible to be ready for. When Tony first proposed this workout I showed it to a friend of mine, who practically does pull-ups in his sleep (“I could do 100 pull-ups a day for the rest of my life and I wouldn’t count it as exercise”), who said that he didn’t think he could finish it in good style. My first attempt had me hyperventilating in order to keep my lunch down.

P90X2 opens with a similar proposition. Day 1, as I went into last time, is going to challenge you in ways you’ve not seen before but the real nastiness hits on day 2. Plyocide is so much harder than the original that P90X master and superstar Beachbody coach and all-around master of fitness Mark Briggs looked as though he was going to pass out during the Plyocide rehearsal. “I just wasn’t ready for that,” said the guy who devises some of the most intense P90X/Insanity hybrids out there. You have been warned.

Luckily the warning comes with some advice. Block I of our prep focused on balance. Block II will up the intensity. Briggs had been training with Tony’s One on One Plyocide workout, which is a decent practice session for the moves, but the final version is a whole other ball game when it comes to intensity. There is simply no way this workout isn’t going to hurt out of the gate but if you start adding a day of ever-increasing plyometric workouts to your training now and you’ll be ready to stave off utter annihilation.

Here are some choices along with comments. Of course you need to work with what you’ve got, so don’t feel the need to get all of these. Just keep increasing the intensity of your weekly plyo session right up until you shut down for the last couple of weeks before X2 arrives.

One on One: Plyocide – this workout is a bit of a practice session. Good training but slow cadence.

P90X Plyo - If it’s all you’ve got it ain’t bad. If you can waltz through this your body is ready for the next X.

One on One: Plyo Legs – The very first One on One workout is a good next step from P90X Plyo

Insanity Max Interval Plyo – It was surprising Mark got so slammed after doing this regularly because it’s still very hard.

Turbo Fire HIIT 30 – Will have you well used to any jumping that life throws your way. Any of the HIITs will prep you, so work your way up to 30 if you're just starting out.

Asylum: Overtime – adding this short workout to the end other workout will destroy you in just the right kind of way.

Asylum: Vertical – Shaun T’s version of Plyocide. If you can handle this with good form you’re ready for anything. Train to get ready for this workout though because "it's not Insanity!"

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Lord of the Widz

This week’s Psyche is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a climbing story—and an esoteric one at that—but its narrative could apply to any endeavor. Over the last month, two gentlemen of the Sceptred Isle made a tour of America’s hardest wide crack climbs that has changed that pursuit forever. But before we jump into the what and how of the tale, we need to step back to the beginning, where a plan was hatched on a Greek island paradise famous for its sport climbing and free diving.

Kalymnos is a perfect setting for our genesis because it’s the exact opposite of where we lead. It’s a place that makes the sport of climbing seem magical. The rock climbing is incredibly fun. The surroundings are ever better. It’s a land where masses of uber fit scantily clad men and women throw themselves at mega hard routes until they’re glistening with sweat before cooling off in the Mediterranean and then lounging on the beach with a beverage. The entire scene is not unlike what a mountaineer might dream up while trapped in an ice cave during a week-long storm.

Conversely, wide cracks are most climber's nightmare. Often found in the dankest underbelly of the mountain they are avoided like the plague. There is never a crowd to contend with, unless you count bats or the various creepy crawlies that inhabit such realms. And then there’s the climbing, which is like an entirely different sport and generally consists of wedging as much of your body as you can fit into a fissure, usually inverted, and then finding a way to let go so that you can make forward progress that often proceeds inches at a time. It can best be summed up in one word: sadistic. Juxtaposing the two is like comparing Lothl√≥rien to Mordor.

And thus it’s fitting that our heroes hail from The Shire, or England’s Peak District if you will. It’s a place steeped in history, where many a scheme to conquer the world’s highest peaks was hatched even though their own humble surrounding rarely exceed a few hundred meters. And, not unlike the race of Hobbits, locals of this region have snatched an almost absurd amount of success from under the noses of rocky heights denizens worldwide.


And so it begins. One Tom Randall, aka Randall of the Hump, and one Peter Whittaker, aka Peter of the Wide, whilst climbing in Kalymnos hatch an audacious quest, to conquer all of the most feared and notorious wide-crack climbs on the planet, and to let nothing stand in the way. Never mind that until this mad revelation they’d spend virtually no time attempting to climb such things.


Of course wide cracks of note barely existed anywhere near their homeland and, as such, they had a problem. But that didn’t stop Mallory, nor Shipton, Bonnington, Moffat or Moon. The lads would not be deterred and turned to their forbearers to guidance for which there was a solution steeped in lore. The English cellar.

Home improvements commenced and soon there was a gym, of sorts. More of a torture chamber. Kitchen counter tops, placed vertically with varying widths between, or just enough space of stuff various bits of body parts into, always upside down, in order to build muscle and tendon strength, lest we not forget pain tolerance, in order to turn this most magnificent of pipe dreams into reality.

Alas, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm... is too good to be summed up already. In fact, the Wide Boyz, as they are now called, are still at it. What is unfolding is a story for the ages. And since I’m recapping, those who fancy yourself intrepid can easily look ahead at a handful of blogs covering the story—the best belonging to our heroes, their court reporter, and, as always in matters of vertical ascention in fair Albion, UK Climbing. Or you can use some restraint and let it unfold here, like allowing your wine to breath instead of quaffing it out of the bottle—perhaps box in such a case. After all, even in the most grizzly of times we humans must do our best to remain civilized.

Of course a guy’s gotta make a living, so don’t be shy about clicking any link in this post. Who knows, it might lead to you getting fitter than you’ve ever been and hanging upside down like a bat a few thousand feet above a barren desert. But one can only dream.

Tom Randall is sponsored by Wild Country, RAB, Sterling Rope, Five Ten, Climb On and supported by The Edge Climbing Centre

Pete Whittaker is sponsored by Wild Country, Patagonia, Sterling Rope, Five Ten, Climb On

Travelling with the duo is photographer Alex Ekins. You can see heaps of trip images on his website: Alex Ekins. Alex is sponsored by Wild Country, RAB, PODsacs and Clif Bar.