Thursday, March 29, 2012

Muscular Endurance

“What are you training?” asked ex-MLS player/now BB employee Johnny Alcaraz while watching me do 30 reps (each side) of step-up convicts last night, which reminded me that I hadn’t reported on my training in a while and should probably share this phase with the world. Muscular endurance was my answer, which I followed with some details on my particular block that’s also targeting pelvic and scapular stability. “But mainly muscular endurance.”

I’ve explained why you’d want to train muscular endurance in other articles. For a detailed explanation click on the summary below:

What 30 reps does is train your glycolytic energy system. As I said in an early post, the glycolysis is what allows a fast 100 meter sprinter to win at 400 meters. Essentially, it’s the system that uses glycogen and oxygen to recharge your body’s anaerobic system.

That article explains why women might be drawn to training muscular endurance (it ensures you can’t build bulk) but it’s also extremely helpful for almost any athlete except those in complete power sports, and even those will benefit from training this system enough to keep it efficient. Its downside is that gym sessions get long and the workouts hurt.

During 30 reps sets you can actually feel your system load change. The weight you use may seem impossibly light during the first 6-10 reps. Around 15 (or less later in the workout) you’ll start feeling it. At 20, the point where most traditional weight exercises end and about as long as your can reasonably hold your breath under duress, you’re muscles will begin to give out as you change systems. From then on it’s a fight to the finish (providing you’ve used enough weight which takes a little practice). If you do these sets correctly you’ll be dying (in my case screaming) to get your last five reps done.

This time around I’ve put a spin on the Workout From Hell format, essentially supplementing P90X2 movements. Those of you who’ve been following along know that I altered my original round of X2 when I hurt my back (getting tripped running down a mountain). It recovered quickly but I’d already designed a 3 block hangboard cycle (will be published in an article if I like it) and a supporting training that includes a three week block of muscular endurance. Here’s the workout I’m doing 3x a week. You will notice a lot of instability. Next week I transition to PAP.

Full Body 30

Functional warm-up (stability ball [SB] moves that open X2 workouts)
Plank - 30 sec
Wall Angels - 4 contractions held
Heel slide - 15 reps each side
Calf raises – heels straight, in, and out: 10 each
YT Fly on SB (see X2) – 30 reps
Darin squats – named for Shakeology’s Darin Olien (I saw he and Laird Hamilton doing these in a workout), you support yourself holding onto a bar and squat back and forth on each leg, extending the opposite leg straight (like a reverse hurdler stretch). 30
Superman (prone) pull down – lying on a bench on stomach in superman position, pull downs with a band 30
Toe Raises – Tibealis Anterior exercise, back flat on wall feet out in front raise toes 30


V-Rows – Row from the V position (legs and back raised for instability) 30
Pullovers on a stability ball – 30
Step up convicts (see X2) – 30 one side
Fingertip push-up 30
Step up convicts (see X2) – 30 other side
Bridge leg lift - 6 x 30 seconds or 3 each leg
Banana (supine) pull down - 30
Super Skaters with lateral hop – skate slow and then jump 30
Push press - 30
Side plank leg raise (see X2) – 30 seconds each side
Curls in a lunge - 30
Upright rows - 30
Front tri extension w/band in a lunge - 30
Reverse curl on one leg – 30


Neuro-integreated stretch (see X2 PAP and Plyo)

pic: extended side plank on unstable platform - note down turned toe for glute med activation.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Training For 9a

I haven’t found any inspiring vids in lately so this week’s Psyche is a training article from UK hardman James McHaffie. Known primarily as a trad climber, McHaffie made sport climbing headlines with an ascent of Big Bang, 9a, a route that had thwarted so many famous climbers that it held a mystical reputation as virtually impossible. What ultimately impressive about this ascent is that Big Bang was two full grades harder than anything McHaffie had climbed previously, which took a boatload of training and, per usual for sport climbing, some inspired dieting. The interview also benefits from the standard English droll wit.

From RCUK:

Climbing something at my limit and improving at it actually meant climbing less, as I’d need one and a half to two rest days before serious attempts and to be much more reflective about where/why I’d fallen.

I’ve got a proper sweet tooth which doesn’t matter too much when you’re ledge shuffling on E7s but I have had to have a break from them for steep hard sport climbs!

While McHaffie’s approach is only somewhat scientific what’s most interesting about this article is how much sense it make to the average climber. Yes, he did a lot of hard and focused training and lost weight but, unlike some of what you read/see about vision quests, he didn’t embark of some sort of Spartan adventure where it was touch and go as to whether he’d do the route or get so injured he’d never climb again. While those make great tales, not very many of us could mimic Rich Simpson’s training for Action Direct without suffering a serious injury. This plan could be followed by anyone who’s been climbing regularly, though—of course—you’ll need to substitute appropriate grades for own level.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Don’t Break Your Face

Tony’s famous saying “don’t break your face” is an almost perfect analogy for showing the evolution of P90X. Back in the Power 90 days, when our goal was to get people moving and “Just Press Play” was the Beachbody motto, he literally meant that you shouldn’t drop weight on your head. In P90X2, it’s a slogan for staying cool under fire, because the more relaxed your face is the more you can focus energy on your training.

He still jokes about dropping weight but he also talks about face control. It's a hard lesson for many people to get. When we get tired we get tight. We contract. We scream. We hold stress in places, like our face, when that energy would better serve us elsewhere. Calm, relaxed, and focused on nothing but breath and movement is how we perform best, especially under duress. In Power 90, and to some degree P90X, it was enough to simply show up and try. As you’ve become fitter we now want to coax more performance out of your body and need to evolve our techniques. It starts with your face.

In the above photo I’ll be the poster child of poor form. My screaming looks cool and sells magazines but it’s not efficient. “Focus on pulling with your arms instead of your neck,” was my congratulatory note from distinguished climbing/gymnastics coach Rob Candelaria. In contrast check out the other photos of climbers who are contemplating moves at their physical limits with the serenity of a zen monk. The one in the first shot looks about ready to take a nap.

Don’t get me wrong; screaming at the right time is helpful, even important. The old karate “kee-yaw” has a place but it’s calculated. When you lose control the end it near. The goal is to control your body, saving outbursts for when you absolutely need them.

P90X2 forces you to stay calm. Try screaming during Warrior 3 kickbacks and you’ll fall, or least teeter. You’ll handle heavier weight if you’re under control, which is our grand design. By the time to get to the PAP training your form should be so solid that you’ll know when it’s time to use a calculated outburst to your advantage. Calming your face is the first step to getting the most out of your workouts; at least it is once whether or not you actually do the workout is no longer a question.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Value Of Mentors

Another of my mentors has passed away and, once again, there seems to be some serendipity at work. I hadn’t thought about him in many years but, oddly enough, only happened upon the news because the Asylum post (on re-living your youth) got me digging around about basketball practice. Even though I hadn’t thought of Coach Harter in ages I can remember many of the stories recounted in this outstanding article about his life like I’d heard them yesterday. In fact, I can still recite some of his quotes verbatim.

I’m certain most of you have never heard of Dick Harter. He spent most of his life as an assistant coach in the NBA who specialized in defense. But Harter once spent a period of time as the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, of whom I was a rabid fan. But it wasn’t because my family was from Oregon, or because my mom went there, but simply because of Harter’s teachings and the way they played basketball. When I became a coach (my first career) I primarily patterned my style after his. I had other influences, including my dad, Bobby Knight, John Wooden, and some of the others coaches I’d played for but Coach Harter was foremost among them. I can still remember how disappointed I was that he left Oregon before I went to college, meaning I’d never have a chance to try and play for him.

“The best coach I ever had,” says Ronnie Lee, the greatest Duck of them all and the embodiment of the spirit of the Kamikaze Kids who went on to play six seasons in the NBA. “He got everything out of me a coach could possibly get.”

“One of the fiercest competitors I’ve been around,” says Greg Ballard, who enjoyed a 12-year NBA career after starring for Harter’s Ducks. “My NBA coaches didn’t compare. I appreciate it so much, looking back. I’m so sorry that, in recent weeks, I wasn’t able to call Dick and tell him how much I loved him.”

At Oregon, Harter’s Kamikaze Kids were a thorn in mighty UCLA’s side. It seemed like every year Wooden’s team of eventually NBA Hall of Famers would have more trouble with the scrappy Ducks than in the NCAA tournament (some years they gave UCLA their only loss and broke their 98-game home winning streak). His teams played with an intensity I’ve rarely seen. His “attack on defense and rest on offense” style was something I always tried to get my teams to mimic. Our goal, I always told my players, was to be the team that everyone hated to play. We might not be the most talented group but we are going to make our opponents miserable. My basketball practices often looked more like football. This came 100% from Coach Harter.

“Toughest regimen I ever went through,” Ballard says. “Charge drills — giving up your body. Diving on the floor after loose balls. Slide drills with bricks in your hands. Climb the rope to the top of McArthur Court. Running ‘17s’ the width of the court. If you didn’t make it in a minute, you did it again.”

Often, that didn’t agree with the players’ stomachs.

“I don’t know of another program in the country where the managers had to have five-gallon paint buckets underneath each basket, so when guys puked, one was readily available,” Closs says.

“During practice, you didn’t like him that much,” Lee says. “He pushed you so hard. After you left Oregon, you finally appreciated it. He pulled everybody together, creating a bond you can’t shake. He’d say, ‘I don’t care what you think about anybody else. On the basketball court, you’re going to play as a team.’ "

Ron Lee, incidentally, was my favorite player. I had this picture (cut out of a Sports Illustrated) handing on my wall.

I still take life lessons from Harter to this day. I tried to get my teams to bond, become sort a family, and it’s still the type of relationship I try and cultivate, with friends, and colleagues. My old video/climbing store was like a family, so was The Castle/Allez magazine, and so is our Beachbody fitness staff (Denis in fact worked for the video store as an undergrad, where I also met Marcus Elliott). And this was all, in no small part, related to what I learned from Coach Harter.

“We were a collection of guys leaving our homes and coming from places all over the country to play for a coach who essentially was the head of our family,” he says. “Like any family, you share a lot of joy together. You share some pain together. Along the way you learn some lessons. It’s the latter that I’ll always remember Coach Harter for.”

“As you look back,” Lee says, “you realize the genius. If I were coaching today, I’d follow a lot of what he stressed. Diving for the ball, taking a charge, blocking out to get a rebound. Offense starts with defense. One little thing can cost you a game. I learned so much from him.”

“There were things you questioned in your mind,” Ballard says. “Some of the stuff we did didn’t seem to be related to basketball. But looking back, it was all related to mental toughness. It would translate to your toughness on the court.”

Special thanks to Kerry Eggers and the Portland Tribune.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Re-Live Your Insane Youth

Sitting here working on the next round of Insanity: Asylum workouts inspired me to post this video for the Friday Psyche. It was made by one of our coaches highlighting the results from a group challenge. It’s pretty amazing what a few psyched individuals can achieve in 30 days.

As an athlete Asylum workouts resonate more than anything else in our line-up for pure fun factor. It’s probably because they’re a lot like sports practice was back in the day. And even though I’m sure I complained about miserably-hard practice like these as much as my teammates, in retrospect it was a rollicking good time.

I always used to describe the P90X/Insanity relationship as X being training for the sport of Insanity. This is doubly true for the X2/Asylum relationship. P90X2 is what you’d do in the deep off-season to change your body and specifically target weaknesses. Asylum is like Hell Week; what you’d do just before the start of the season to bring your fitness to a peak. And as nasty as Hell Week felt at the time in my memory all they conjure up are smiles.

Get busy people. You can re-live your youth with Asylum.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One Sugary Drink Per Day Can Lead To Heart Disease

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, which is sad for you because there’s been some great stuff in the news. Hopefully my schedule will clear a bit next week so I can get to the meatier issues. Today I’m going to start with a little appetizer from Harvard; a mass study (43,000) showing that those who drank soda, any soda, were at a 20% higher risk for heart disease than those who didn’t.

While this may sound shocking a little digging shows it’s not, really. The study’s parameters were broad and, basically, only led to the not-so-surprising conclusion that those who ate a healthier diet fared better than those who did not. From ABC News:

A growing body of research connects sugary drinks with increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure and a number of other chronic diseases. But nutrition experts note that the current study doesn't show that sugar-sweetened beverages cause heart disease. Consuming sugary drinks every day may simply indicate less healthy lifestyles that could lead to heart disease.

"To some extent, people who drink more soda are apt to eat less well overall," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. "Too much added sugar in the diet is likely a 'marker' of lower overall diet quality."

Still, it’s another indictment of the sugary drink world (soda, sports drinks, and sugary juices were lumped together, which makes sense since they’re all basically the same) and that’s a good thing. The facts still remain; sugary drinks are the single largest caloric source in the world. And until that stops the obesity epidemic is going to continue to expand.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Too Much Of A Good Thing? A Closer Look At Vitamin D

Those of you on the vitamin D bandwagon should take note of a new study showing that too can lead to increased cardiovascular inflammation. “People should have their D levels tested before taking vitamin D supplements and tested again a few times a year if they stay on them", says Muhammad Amer, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “They should not be ignoring the fact that D is a steroid-like hormone and may be harmful at some level.”

I’ve posted on the potential pitfalls of randomly jacking your diet with vitamin D a couple times recently. Most of us who spend time outdoors have no need to supplement it. However, as per usual in the supplement industry, there’s always something trendy that everyone’s recommending. And while the theoretical downside of overdosing D has been known, until now there’s hasn’t been much quantifiable data that it was a realistic possibility.

A study published in the American Journal of Cardiology in January has changed this. It looked at 15,000 healthy adults age 18 to 85 and found that, while increasing levels of D in the blood are associated with decreased cardiovascular inflammation to a point, once D levels go beyond that point, inflammatory markers actually begin to rise.

New Hope 360 reports:

This indicates a growing risk of stiffening blood vessels and other cardiovascular problems. This latest research is among several new studies that suggest, as Virginia Moyer, MD, chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, recently put it: “The nutrient falls into the category of something that both benefits and harms.”

They follow the news with an interview with Dr. Amer, the study's lead author. Click on the quote to read the entire article,

Vitamin D is beneficial for your cardiovascular health because it curbs inflammation, which is an underlying reason for atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). You should be on it if you are a candidate (because your D levels are low), but you should not keep on taking it indefinitely without keeping track of your levels. Again, at certain levels in the blood, vitamin D may become pro-inflammatory. If you can be on vitamin D rather than being on expensive statin drugs that compromise your kidney, liver and muscle, why not? It can definitely benefit you—it just has to be used judiciously.

Friday, March 02, 2012

It Ain't Over Til It's Over

Alizée Dufraisse: La Reina Mora 8c+/9a FFA from Prana Living on Vimeo

Today’s Psyche presents the definition of “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” This girl is gone. Outta there. Her body is convulsing, her elbows are chicken-winging and her ability to control the holds is shot. It seems unbelievable that her feet can stay on such small holds shaking the way they are. When you’re belaying someone who looks like this you’re well into catch mode. Yet she somehow finds a way to hang on, which is probably why she climbs harder than almost everyone. The fight she shows is some of the most impressive climbing I've ever seen.

You have to wade through a little bit of boring/envy-ness to get there (I want to spend 3 months in Spain) but, hey, it’s a Prana vid and if they’re going to produce stuff this cool you can cut em some slack for a little yoga promo. Plus, yoga is one of the best exercises for (insert almost anything here) so it might not even be staged. Yoga makes us better at physical stuff. Period.

Here’s a little background: Alizée is one of the new school of strong youngsters taking grades to a new level. This is one of the hardest ascents done by a female, which isn’t to say it’s a cake walk for the top men. In fact, a recent Psyche shows Dani Andrada, one of the world’s best, falling all over this same route.