Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Plan the Work; Work the Plan

Well, a plan only works if you work it, so I’m proud to say that the past two days I have followed my tri training schedule pretty closely. Since I actually started the plan on a Tuesday, I did Monday’s Tri components and a full body fighter-style workout to get caught up. The only thing I skipped was yoga, and I’m okay with that tradeoff.

I’ve been in the pool everyday since I made my plan, and I’m pretty sure I was in the water Monday too. I’ve also been checking out the Total Immersion principles for efficient swimming, and have ordered the TI book on basic swimming and tri swimming. I’m very excited to read over ideas behind the technique, and to start the drills on balance and coordination. YouTube has several videos of the TI principles being demo’ed, and even those have helped me understand body position a bit more.

Psychologically I think the swimming is falling more into line, too. Even though it remains difficult, and my breathing is still not seemless, it is rewarding to feel somewhat more comfortable in the pool after only 2 or 3 days. There are stretches--one or two laps at a time--when I feel really comfortable, like I could do this swimming thing for a long time. Then I misjudge and swallow a bunch of water, but at least I’m not totally winded after 4 strokes, like I was before I started working with my awesome Swim Coach (hi, mom!) and doing my research into more efficient body position.

It’s interesting: to be a good runner or a good cyclist it seems like it mostly takes time in the shoes or saddle, just doing the sport enough that your muscles adapt and get strong in that motion and your cardio can support the level of endurance you are looking for. Swimming, based on my very limited knowledge and research, seems to me more like golf. Sure, being strong and powerful is important, especially at the elite level, but the most important thing is to consistently position your body so that your swing (or stroke) seems to effortlessly achieve the goal of an accurate shot (or a sustainable, enjoyable swim). I guess it shouldn’t be too surprising that controlled torso rotation plays a huge roll in both sports.

All this training is good for Nick, too: I tend to fall asleep more easily! Off to bed I go!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tri Training: I think I'm Really Doing This....

I spent the better part of this evening getting a training plan together for the next 33 weeks (countdown to Danskin). I’m going to be in the pool three days a week, and am going to build up my endurance in four week intervals, following a base, +10%, +10%, -25% plan to increase my minutes while allowing rest intervals. This plan is based off the 20 week Swim Training Schedule available free at Beginner Triathlete.

In other Tri News, I am super excited that D and I will be joined by my most fabulous sister in our journey to badass-ed-ness. It turns out sis has always had a secret dream to do a triathlon. Who knew? It’s already so much fun talking about all this with her; I can’t wait until we start training together too! Her awesome hubby is already designing t-shirts for the support crew to wear as we cross the finish line...something rather catchy (um, raunchy?) like “My wife does it three ways.”

I can’t believe how excited I am to start training for this. I think it’s because it feels like a real concrete goal. It’s always nice to get stronger or fitter, or get a bit more definition in the triceps, but this is a real leap into the unknown for me and my fitness. I’m going to learn two sports to do this, and there’s something just exciting as hell about the challenge.

Monday, December 17, 2007

My Sweet New Ride!

Tri Training officially started three days ago, when I reserved a lane at the pool and got geared up. I looked good, like I really knew what I was doing: TYR racing two-piece, TYR swim hat (thanks, mom!) and brand new TYR goggles. I didn’t mean to turn into a TYR commercial, it just happened. In any event, I had all my stuff on and was feeling pretty good about things.

Until I got in the pool. I was able to swim 4 laps (in my gym’s mini pool, that’s 80 yards) and then had to stop to catch my breath. It was hard! 20 minutes in the pool, with plenty of breaks to catch my breath, was more exhausting than an hour of light jogging.

Luckily, my mom is a total water baby and used to be a swim instructor, so yesterday I joined her for my intro swimming lesson at her pool. She gave my lots of really great tips, showed me strokes other than the crawl that I could use as “rest strokes” and helped my understand where the power was coming from (and not coming from) in my stroke. My the end of the lesson, I was feeling much better about my swimming. I still have quite a ways to go, but twice and thrice weekly swim sessions should help me build up endurance and confidence. I really think if I can get comfortable with the breathing, the rest will come with practive.

So with my running in decently good shape, and my plan for increasing my swimming skills well underway, I only had one tri-training hurdle to overcome this weekend--biking! I’m not super worried about the biking; I am confident that physically I can do it, even if I am not the best or most efficient cyclist at the moment. But in order to get better, and in order to eventually participate in the Danskin, I needed a bike.

Well, early this evening, I got a bike! The whole fam hunkered down at Gregg’s Cycle for most of the day; Nick and I each did multiple test fits and test rides, and in the end we all left with amazing new bikes. I am so thrilled with my new Trek 2.1. It fit’s me like a dream, and test rides along the interurban felt great! The bike is quick and responsive and gives me plenty of room to grow as a cyclist. I have a lot to figure out about cycling in general, and about the specifics of gear changing and cadence and energy transfer and whatnot with this particular ride, but I’m thrilled to be taking up a new sport! Even the test rides were just so fun!

For gear-head’s out there, here’s the specs:
Frame - Alpha Black Aluminum w/TCT Carbon stays
Fork - Bontrager Race, carbon
Wheels - Bontrager SSR (43cm: Alloy hubs w/650c Alex rims)
Crank - Bontrager 50/39/30
Rear Derailleur - Shimano 105
Size - 54 cm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

PB-Banana Wake Up Shake

This is my basic formula for a basic high-protein breakfast smoothie.
! cup soy milk
1 scoop Vanilla Soy Protein
1 tbsp. creamy Peanut Butter
1 frozen banana, peeled
Ice, as needed

Combine all ingredients in a high-powered blender. It works best if you blend the soy milk and soy protein powder thoroughly before adding the other ingredients. Usually, one frozen banana is enough to thicken the shake, but if you prefer it thicker, add crushed ice and blend to desired consistency.

Strawberry Variation:
Substitute Strawberry Soy Protein for Vanilla and 1 cup frozen strawberries for the banana and peanut butter.

Tropical Fruit Variation:
Substitute 1 cup mixed frozen tropical fruit for the peanut butter and banana.

You get the’s a smoothie, not a blanquette de veau.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Well, the first of the 12 Days of Fitness offer came through my inbox this morning, which means two things. First, I get to evaluate the “specials” sent out by some of the self-proclaimed best trainers and fitness experts on the web. Secondly, it’s two weeks until Christmas. Does this worry anyone else? And, for once, I’m not talking about working out. I’m talking about wrapping, cards, decorating, lights, and getting ready for my in-laws! It seems like I was going along, totally and blissfully unaware of the looming workload. Then, BOOM! reality hit.

Anyway, my need to get christmas cards in the mail notwithstanding, let’s talk about the 12 Day Giveaway. The scope of the giveaway and the way it is arranged is great. The fitness snippets are categorized, and you select only what you want, so muscle-head gym rats don’t need to download the lose the baby fat new-mom tips, and new moms aren’t bombarded by tips to help them bulk up, fast!

So I like the organization, but so far I am rather disappointed in many of the participants. Quite a few of the downloadable workouts and journals look like they were created in Excel 10 years ago and were never updated. Others are so bloated with extreme marketing jargon (“Lose That UGLY FAT! Fast!” “X-TREME Technique for X-TREME Results!” “100 Secrets The Fitness Industry WON’T TELL YOU! But I WILL!”) that’s it hard to shift through the chaff to get to the wheat.

But there are already a few gems emerging. Not surprisingly, Josh Hillis’ contributions - Fighter Workouts and Stubborn Holiday Fat Workouts are excellent, with great, simple workouts and high quality photo-explanations. As I continue to sort through the booty, I’ll report back on the best.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Jingle Bell Fun Run

D and I ran the Seattle Jingle Bell Fun Run this morning, and both posted our personal best for a 5k! I came in at 30:14, which averages just under 9:30/mile. Early this year, I ran the St. Patrick’s Day Dash 33:46, so I’ve shaved about a minute per mile off my time. Yeah! I’ll take it!

The route took us around the Westlake area of downtown Seattle and up along the I-5 express lanes. One of my favorite parts of these kooky races is running along roads that would normally be completely pedestrian inaccessible. Just inside the express lane tunnel, an ongoing round of “Jingle Bells” was sung out by the runners, kept going through-presumably-the full duration of the race until the last of the runners made it out of the tunnel. It was fun and communal and kinda sweet to be part of 11,000 people singing the same happy holiday song.

The costumes were fun (more Santa hats than you could shake a stick at) and the weather was very cold, but clear. As I came out of the tunnel at about mile 2.5, little flurries of snow were falling outside. It was just enough snow to make the moment seem really quite magical, without making the running any more difficult.

After the run, we met up with Nick and Bella and consumed mass quantities of Dim Sum at Jade Garden in the ID. Great way to spend a morning!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Workout For A Strapless Dress

Danielle is the maid-of-honor in a wedding and will be wearing a strapless dress in about 20 days. To make sure she looks her best (of course she would anyway) she wants to tone up her arms - especially triceps - a bit before the big day. So, she has asked me to design a workout to help her meet that goal.

That means a combination of arm-specific strength work for sculpting plus all over full body workouts and cardio to maximize fat loss around the arms. She has time to do this full weekly plan 2 times between now and when she leaves for the wedding. Doing this workout in combination with really clean eating, one could expect to lose about 4-5 pounds in two weeks, and see firming throughout the upper body. Here it is:

Mon: Full Body Fat Burner Workout (look familiar?)
Dumbbell Swings - 1 minute @ 20#
Push-Ups - 1 minute, on knees
Dumbbell Swings - 1 minute @ 20#
Push-Ups - 1 minute, on knees
Dumbbell Swings - 1 minute @ 20#
Rest 3 Minutes. Repeat 3 Times (24 minutes)
Cardio: D’s Choice: 30 minutes
Total Time: 54 minutes

Tuesday: Arm Focus Part 1
Circuit Style (Repeat thee times):
Bench Press - 20 @ bar
Jockey Row - 12 @ ~120#
Lat Pull-Down - 12 @ 80#
Tricep Pushdown - 12 @ ~70#
Woodchop Down - 12 @ ~80#
Woodchop Up with Squat - 12 @ ~70#
Cable Bicep Curls - 12 @ ~50#
Tricep Cable Overhead Extension - 12 @ ~60#
Total Time: ~50 minutes

Wednesday: Rest. You Earned It!

Thursday: Full Body Fat Burner Workout
Thrusters - 1 minute @ 15#
Alternating Back Lunges, with Dumbbell Bicep Curl - 1 minute @ 12#
Incline Bench Sit-Ups with Medicine Ball - 1 minute
Thrusters - 1 minute @ 15#
Alternating Back Lunges, with Bicep Curl - 1 minute @ 12#
Incline Bench Sit-Ups with Medicine Ball - 1 minute
Rest 3 Minutes. Repeat 3 Times. (36 Minutes)
Cardio: D’s Choice: 20 minutes
Total Time: 56 minutes

Friday: Arm Focus Part 2
Circuit Style (Repeat thee times):
Elevated Push-up on Bench - 20 @ bodyweight
Renegade Rows - 10 per side @ ~15#
Tricep Dumbbell Pullover - 12 @ ~20#
Bicep 21’s - 21 @ ~30#
Tricep Dumbbell Kick-back- 12 @ ~15#
Ball Wall Squat with Dumbbell Hammer Curls - maintain squat; 12 @ ~15#
Incline Bench Dumbbell Fly - 12 @ ~10#
Total Time: 50 minutes

Saturday: Rest! You Earned It!

Sunday: Interval Training for Fat Loss
30 minute run. Alternate pace and incline for interval-style workout
20 minute cool down jog - easy pace; walk/jog
Total Time: 50 minutes

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Crossfit - Wow!

My kettlebell workout experiment has left me with the profound impression that the balls-to-the-wall full body motions of swings, pull ups, squats and the like really are the most effective way to pound your body into shape fast. I base this conclusion on one workout, which either says something about the workout or about my willingness to jump to conclusions. Probably both.

Anyway, researching more multi-joint exercises and kettlebell training techniques led me to Crossfit, which seems to be the technique of combining all the most punishing full-body exercises you hate to do (burpees, power cleans, kettlebell swings) into one giant, timed sprint of a workout. The crossfit people seem to get it done in record time my doing everything at once.

Picture this: Do 15 power cleans, then 15 pull ups, then 15 dips, then 15 box jumps. Do that three times, as fast as you can, ‘cause the clock starts....NOW! That seems to be Crossfit.

Now mind you, I haven’t actually done a crossfit workout, I’m just basing this off of internet research and videos put up by the nice people at The classes seem to be very instructor led, hands-on things, which makes sense for a workout that could really injure you if you do it wrong.

I found a Crossfit gym not too far away, and I’ve gotta try it! I’ll keep you posted!

Update: went to the gym late and did a crossfit-style workout (I think it was a crossfit style workout, anyway). Here’s what I did:

20 dumbbell thrusters
20 dumbbell swings
20 pushups on ball
20 deadlifts w/ bar
20 front squat w/ bar

Repeat 3 times for time. It took me about 28 minutes for the three rounds, which means each round was taking almost 10 minutes (truthfully, I think the last round took quite a bit longer, as I was dead tired by the end of it. WAY TOO SLOW. I figure thats at least twice the time it should take. If I keep doing these style workouts, I’d like to see my time for something like that at about 3-4 minutes a round.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Kettlebell Swimgs

I did Josh Hillis’ Fighter Workout for Fat Loss today. Here’s how it works:
Kettlebell (or Dumbbell) Swings - as many as you can for 1 minute
Pushups - as many as you can for 1 minute
Kettlebell Swings - as many as you can for 1 minute
Pushups - as many as you can for 1 minute
Kettlebell Swings - as many as you can for 1 minute
Rest for 3 Minutes. Repeat 3 Times.

Doesn’t seems like that much, really. 5 minutes of “on” time and 3 minutes of rest time. Seems like one of those things that might be kinda tough while you’re doing it, but should be relatively easy to bust out. At least, that’s what I was thinking. Oh, the arrogance of the kettlebell swing virgin. This is hard. Maybe minute-for-minute the hardest workout I’ve ever done. It is now several hours after my workout and I’ve refueled and rehydrated my body, and still all I want to do is take a nap.

I guess that’s the difference between this kind of workout and an intense, single-body part focused workout. Let’s say I burn through a back-and-bi workout, and I push hard. For a couple hours by bicep’s will hurt--maybe I’ll feel ‘em the next day. For a couple of days, probably, my back will have that workout soreness. With these full body moves, I can’t say that some single part of me will be sore tomorrow--but all of me is exhausted right now. Hat’s off to Josh--that guy knows how to put together one ass-kicker of a workout. If I lived in Denver I’d hire him as my trainer.

So after going on and on about how hard kettlebell swings are, I will admit I didn’t actually use a kettlebell. I did the dumbbell variant--no idea how much harder a proper kettlebell would make the move. I asked a rockstar trainer at my gym why we didn’t have kettlebells and he laughed and muttered something about people hitting themselves in the head with them. Apparently spherical heavy things are far more dangerous than regular ol’ dumbbells. It’s a miracle the bowling alley doesn’t see more brainings, I guess.