2019 has arrived and I am going to spend a lot of time out here in cyberspace imparting what I think I know. It is my hope that you will look forward to explorations of health and fitness with me and that we both will learn and experience a few things along the way.
Before we get to all of that lets first just have a little bit of fun. One of the things that I do for myself is to create interesting play lists for my workout times. In particular, for cardio sessions, having a strong cadence to run to, or some powerful lyrics to energize me can make all the difference.
For a strength session I sometimes go with a book or interesting podcast. I prefer a podcast usually since I don’t want my concentration on a lift to be distracted by an interesting plot point. Regardless, there’s always the skip back function.
That being said, I really get into a good music list. The preparation of searching and downloading often get me jazzed up for a run the following day. I can’t wait to ‘try out’ the mix and see what needs to be added or dropped. While I like Pandora for a consistent mix relative to a genre or artist, I generally don’t rely on them for a quality workout mix. Apple music has pre-done mixes in all kinds of genres for all types of needs not just workouts. However, as good a job they do, sometimes I find myself hitting, skip too many times.
A full album might be good, however, it’s rare to find one which all the songs are great run jams. Personally, I like to shoot for a solid hour’s mix at least. Then I shuffle them each time. Since I don’t always go that long I wont get as burnt out on them.
2018 saw the creation of a bunch of lists, as I really ramped up my cardio last year. By the time I was ready for the Tough Mudder distance of 10+ miles I was doing sometimes 25 miles per week. That requires a lot of music!
In the interests of sharing I will be putting together new lists this year. I’ll make them available to see and if you’re on Apple music I can share them with you. Full disclosure, most of this will be more modern high energy dance and electronic music. That’s just what I like. You should put some effort into creating your own lists. Share back with me, what gets you out on the roads?
Not all of these are from 2018, and are much older in some cases. They are just what I put together last year and are the best songs from that year for me.
Best workout songs of 2018
Classic - Baba O’Riley - The Who
- Only The Young - Journey
- Don’t Stop Me Now - Queen
- More Than a Feeling - Boston
- Barracuda - Heart
- Dance the Night Away - Van Halen
Electronic/Pop - Fembot - Robyn
- Carry Me - Kygo
- Burnin - Calvin Harris
- Hey Now - London Grammar
- Therapy - Armin Van Burren
- Sun Comes up - Rudimental
Hard Rock/Metal - The Pretender - Foo Fighters
- Robot Stop - King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
- Girlfriend - Mathew Sweet
- Maiden, Mother, and Crone - The Sword
- You’ve Got Another Thing Coming - Judas Priest
Rap/Hip Hop - He Got Game - Public Enemy
- Run the Jewels (E) - Run the Jewels
- Shut ‘Em up - The Prodigy/Public Enemy
- Judgement Day - Method Man
Well that’s my best bunch from last year. Your assignment: Take some time and see what kind of a list you can put together for yourself. Have fun with it, then run with it.
Every so often, I get asked as to what the ‘best’ exercise is to do. In many of these hypothetical (or not) situations, time for exercising is in short supply. Other times, It’s just a matter of making some addition to a workout regimen already in place. This can mean that it’s possible for there to be more than one “King” depending upon your specific needs or desires. In general each royal movement will provide benefit for a majority of its subjects.
This month, the Ruler of All Gyms will be, the Goblet Squat, using a kettlebell.
Requirements: The bodyweight of one human person (self)
Squatting is one of the fundamental patterns of movement that we need all our lives. As such, it is important to maintain the ability to squat properly and safely as we develop and age. A primary benefit of good squat form is keeping the knees and hips healthy. Even compromised joints can derive positives from a good set of squats.
The Goblet squat is a great way to add resistance AND flexibility to the body weight squat pattern. By focusing on the specific body position throughout this variation one can improve several facets of their movement competency. Much of the following comes from my Dragon Door HKC manual.
Beginning - The kettlebell is held on the sides of the handle or horns at the chest with both hands.
Move A - You shall maintain a neutral head/neck/spine as you drop the hips towards the floor.
Move B - Noting that the heels and big toes are firmly rooted to the ground, a grunt is expelled forcing exhalation and activating the abdominal wall as explosive force is driven through the feet.
There are many benefits to be derived from this exercise. Hip mobility and a disassociation from the lower back is a good thing. Having hips which move through its designed range of motion limits the amount of wear and tear the lumbar spine has to endure This affects everything from sitting posture to a golf swing.
Carrying the kettlebell creates strength and stability in the shoulders and thoracic cage. This improves and focuses attention on posture for better performance in a variety of activities.
Quadriceps strength and power are improved from the explosive nature of the movement. This challenges the lower extremity to generate forces it may require in a host of activities from walking to running to biking.
Consider the Goblet Squat as the sole exercise of the day. The King has Spoken!!
For info on my 4-40 challenge go here
Valentines day will soon be here so I think it’s a good month to talk about heart health. Cardiovascular fitness is key to staying fit and healthy so getting some longer, harder sessions in is important. Increasing by small increments as the month goes along is a great way to push yourself without going to far. Adding just 5 minutes, an extra block, or a lap around the track can wind up being a pretty significant gain by the end of the month.
My workouts are going pretty well so far. The knee is doing well and I didn’t have any setbacks during January even though some of my workouts were pretty rigorous. For the most part however, I kept weight work at less than 25 minutes as I did not want to push too much.
For February I’m going to up the duration for weight work but not my loads. For now, it’s important for me to focus on form and function. Flexibility work continues to be of primary importance for my left side as it’s still not quite right. There are days when my whole leg from hip to ankle feel tight and stiff. All the more reason not to load up a crooked frame with a lot of weight.
Me and my iPhone:
Kettlebells will make a comeback this month for sure. Certification is still out there but I don’t know when I will be able to do it so I’ve got to be ready. It’s not super strenuous but we all start where we need to. Nothing fancy, just the basics:
2 day workout plan:
Single hand KB swings 10x3sets
Goblet Squats 10x3 sets
TGU 3 minutes
With the lame-o winter here road work may make an earlier than usual appearance.
3 days walk/jog for 20-25 minutes. If my knee doesn’t argue I will take my own advice from above!
iPhone - Nothing new. I need some new music so suggestions are welcome. I've been doing audible books for stuff like folding laundry but I may start listening to that during workouts. FYI currently enjoying the classic sci-fi "Foundation" by Isaac Asimov.
Or: How many times in 3 1/2 hours can you say, "Holy $#!T"
There are a couple of previous posts which refer to the Tough Mudder challenge so I won’t rehash all of that. Let’s just go with the general description of 12 miles and 25+ obstacles designed by British special forces. After having mentioned signing up for this event a few months ago I’ve often been asked to describe it and then had the follow up question of, “Why would you want to do that?”
I say that it sounds like fun but I’m not sure that is really true. I mean, it’s not that none of it sounded fun, or that I wasn’t really looking forward to it, just that I’m not certain that ‘fun’ was my real intention.
I’m not against entering a 5k fun run or even a 10k for that matter. Let’s be honest, on the face of it, crawling through gooey mud, carrying a log for half a mile, and dunking yourself into ice water doesn’t sound fun. However, the idea of something really challenging was appealing. To examine the course and ask a legitimate question, “Can I finish this or not?” Perhaps I could, but I wanted to know if I could not only finish but actually perform well doing it.
Now I will readily confess that I most definitely fell for their marketing ploy, “Are you tough enough!?” I watched the videos, official and otherwise, and measured myself against them. Am I in as good of shape as that guy? I wonder how old he is? Etc etc. I’m not sure that’s a completely sane way to approach an event but at least I wasn’t underestimating it. I had been entranced by the whole idea of combining physical challenges with endurance. Scouring blogs and youtube videos for tips on training, what to wear, how to eat, etc.
Over the past couple of years my own fitness journey has settled not on being a superman, but on what is it that excites me to workout? Hiking, Kettlebells, distance running, and now I’ve added challenge course events. Staying fit for these activities has meant working from the ground up just like we do with all of you. I work through my system of stretches(including the foam roller), keep up with exercises that challenge my equilibrium and fire up the core, strength work for strong stable joints and an increase in power when I need it.
Believe me, I asked myself why people do this event too. Somewhere, buried in that mud, I found my answer. I feel like that’s what we all need to do. To find the things that push and challenge us to stay fit, healthy, and strong. So that, even if you don't have the snappy headband, you can call yourself a Tough Mudder too.
Me and my iPhone -
Mudder workouts at the park and then a week or two of moaning a groaning afterwards HA! I’ll get back on the stick here forthwith. As we head into darkness and snow the kettlebells won't care about any of that.
Chain gang of 1974 - Sleepwalking, thanks Grand Theft Auto V!
I Blame coco - Selfmachine
retro 80’s synth pop all day baby!
In a previous post I talked about theme running events. Being unfamiliar with these types of runs prior, I was very excited by them. I'll be honest, I REALLY wanted to do the zombie one, but I was too late to register for one in Seattle, so I signed up for the Tough Mudder in October. This event is much more intimidating than the zombie run and I was not entirely sure how to train for it exactly. After bombing Bloomsday two years ago having pulled a calf due to my lack of road running I have accepted the fact that I am old enough to do better.
I tried to follow rather general training principle that I use for any activity, match your workouts as closely as possible to the event in quiestion. We do this all the time in our programming. For tennis or golf we incorporate movements which will aid in shoulder mobility and rotation. A marathoner or triahtlete will build over weeks up to the race day load so that the body is familiar with the stresses placed on it. And on and on... However, I just wasn't sure how to get close to 12 miles and 25 physical obstacles.
It might seem obvious now, but I’ll admit it took me a week of treadmill/weight lifting circuits to realize that playground equipment was the better fit. A large open space to run on for about 1/2 mile or so and fixed sturdy equipment that I can use to move my body around on.
The event’s obstacles vary but in general the difficult ones emphasize upper body pulling and pushing such as, log carrying, wall climbing, pulling yourself out of the ice-water dunking area, etc. So, as I come to a stop near the play equipment, I’ll grab the monkeybars and do pull-ups, then switch to pushups or some squats, If there’s a bench I’ll do dips or step ups. Some challenges also require jumping or leaping so doing a set of short sprints or pretend basketball layups will really boost the heart rate. It varies and I usually go for about 2 minutes. After that, I’m back to the field for more jogging. Yes, it probably looks ridiculous, that's the nice thing about ear buds....I don't hear people wondering what the hell I'm doing on a children's playground.
Since the event is not timed, I’m not really concerned with my running pace, just completing the run/obstacle/run/obstacle format. The trick to increasing the number of circuits is to use the jog as your rest period. It’s challenging, so I’m also spending a lot of time stretching out.
Try the playground workout as a fun change up to a boring road run that incorporates some strength work. Regular cardio/strength circuits are fun too, but it’s nice to be outside while you can.
The double bonus was taking Jack with me once and he played with a friend he saw while I worked out. Initially, he said he would run with me a little bit but when he saw his friend, he was off and gone. So, working out while he plays pirates beats sitting on a park bench buried in my iPhone.
Speaking of iPhone - Needing some new music. U2 and some Arcade Fire mixes. Alternative Cardio Pandora station is good too. Still, I could use something new. Suggestions?
As if we didn't need any more evidence that regular exercise is good for you. Now it seems that even small amounts, as little as 15 minutes, can add years to your life.
The current recommendations for exercise rest around 150 minutes per week. Yet researchers in Taiwan observing over a period of 8 years noticed that even at 15 minutes per day, deaths from any cause were dropped significantly. It may not seem like it, but you can do a lot in 15 minutes.
15 minutes is enough for a tough circuit or a brisk walk around the block. 15 minutes in plenty of time to get 4 or 5 hard sets of just one exercise in, or even to simply take some time to stretch out your stiff muslces. I think it's safe to say that most people, including myself, wish we had more time to work out and take care of ourselves. Use this info as a reminder that "something" is, in fact, better than "nothing".
Free squatting or body weight squatting is a great exercise. Unlike a back squat with a bar across the back, your hands are free allowing you to use dumbbells, medicine balls or other handheld implement. Increasing and/or moving a different weight is only one part of good squat form. Balance is also an important skill to be developed. Try a wobble board or a Bosu ball for a fun challenge. View the clip above and see how it's done!
After spending a week in my perfectly air conditioned studio I really crave being out in the sun. It is common to walk into Infinity Fitness on a sunny 100 degree day and find me dressed as if it is the dead of winter. “Hillary are you seriously wearing a fleece!” is a popular summertime greeting.
Don’t get me wrong, I love that I can keep my studio at a nice 68 degrees all day long. Sometimes even cooler if a client has to return to work.Truth be told I hate air conditioning, it feels unnatural. So, after 5 days of cold air and fleece I am ready to be in the sun. This summer so far has consisted of many weekend hikes and bike rides.
This weekend I felt the need for a good weight workout. So, I grabbed a couple of our kettlebells and my Swiss ball and headed for my backyard. I was accompanied by my 7 year old, Jack, who added another level of intensity with constant questioning or the need to show me something really cool! “Mom! Oh man, look spider eggs are under this rock. So cool!”
As usual, I started with my corrective stretches. My right hip has given me some fits lately with what I think is a strained hip flexor muscle. So, warmed it up and stretched. Much better! On to the workout. I did 3 mini circuits of 8-12 reps of each. With a minute rest before going to the next circuit. I’ve listed them below but you could make your own. Go ahead, get outside and lift some heavy weights! (Not all exercises are pictured. Sorry!)
Kettlebell Goblet Squat
Kettlebell Overhead Press
Swiss ball Jackknife
Walking Lunges (Wow, my backyard is really long! Never realized it until I lunged it:)
Kettlebell Single Arm Bent Over Row
Swiss ball Back Extension with Arms Extended Overhead
Lateral Lunges Hold a Kettlebell at the Chest
Swiss ball Side Flexion (Use the side of the garage for support)
Kettlebell Double Arm Overhead Triceps Extension
I did feel I need a something a little extra so I think this week I am going to invest in a jump rope for home. Adding a minute of jump rope between the circuits would have taken this workout to the next level. However, I did get some lateral shuffles and sprints at the end with Jack. He had negotiated some frisbee playing after my workout and his aim is not that great.