Friday, 29 January 2010

Rowing Machine Tabata

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 28th January

Workout: Tabata Intervals on the Rowing Machine - at about 95% effort.

Total Time: 5 minutes (including 1 minute warm up)

Post Workout Nutrition: Paleo breakfast of champions (recipe), 2.5 hours later.

I'm getting fitter. I was able to perform the 8th interval with a sense of inner control; and the lung/throat pain I felt when walking around afterwards was less than last time.

Alas, another sign of my improving fitness is the reappearance of the sleep/fitness paradox. Waking up at 4am or 5am with no hope of getting to sleep and a head full of things I want to do. ... Read more

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Another 300: Faster and Better but Still not Complete

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 26th January

Workout: Cheat '300' Workout

25 Chin Ups - 16, 6, 4 (took 4 sets last time)
50 Deadlifts (Romanian) - 33, 17
50 Push Ups - 36, 14
25 x 2 Assisted Pistols - left leg (15, 10) , right leg (15, 10)
50 Floor Wipers - 15, 15, 11, 9 (took 6 sets last time)
25 x 2 Clean and Press with Dumbbell - right arm (25) , left arm (25)
25 Chins... did not start them!

Total Time: 26:35

Post Workout Nutrition: Primal/Paleo breakfast of champions, 35 minutes later.

I could have finished this time, honest! I was pretty shot by the end of the clean and press, but could have squeezed out the final 25 chins, perhaps in 5 sets of 5.

However, I was late for my train, and as it was I had to speed walk for 15 minutes and jump on as the doors were closing. Nice bit of light cardio to finish off the workout, but I prefer not to arrive at work in a damp shirt!

The first set of chins saw some improvement - I have definitely felt re-adjusted to the exercise (note, I am not saying I have got stronger!) but there was also an element of technique. If you get a bad start to this you can end up fighting against your swinging motion - the trick is to get the right motion going from the start.

Push ups and deadlift on the face of it saw me do fewer reps in the first set. On deadlift I attribute this to leg tiredness after this, but on push ups it was tactical. I knew I could do it in two sets, and wanted to avoid getting too close to failure on the first to preserve my chest and arms for the wipers, where I had previous struggled to support the bar for long.

No change on the assisted pistols - I could have done more on the first sets on each leg, but again, wanted to steer clear of failure. I have physio on Thursday and since I get little sympathy from my physiotherapist when I tell him my legs are recovering from a gym session, I want to be recovered by then.

For whatever reason, the wipers improved significantly this time. Perhaps it was the push up tactics, or perhaps readjustment after the six sets of last week taxed the relevant muscles so much.

The overall time was better by almost 5 minutes for the same set of exercises. I was moving more quickly between exercises, taking less rest, and felt more comfortable with the pain. Next time I will complete the whole 300 in under 30 minutes, trains permitting!
... Read more

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Better Mountain Run Time but Downhill, Knee Complains

Location: The Wrekin, Telford, UK
Date: 24th January

Ran to the top, then walked down.

Total Time
(to top): 17:02

Post Workout Nutrition: none - fasting until the evening meal.

The snow and ice from last week's Wrekin run had vanished today, so I was able to have a crack at a decent time. 17:02 is slower than my best, which is around 15:45, but it's close enough under the circumstances, which are:

- I was operating at about 8/10 effort level, where 10 is the level of effort I would employ if a sabre-toothed tiger was chasing me up the hill.

- whilst the knee felt good on the way up, over the few bits of terrain that are flat or decline slightly I detected a weakness that felt like it would lead to damage over longer stretches. Thus, my physiotherapist's prediction that I would initially struggle except when going uphill was borne out.

So in terms of raw fitness, I feel reasonably comfortable with the time.

We took a few photos on the top. The first has given me a messiah-like appearance thanks to the sun breaking through the clouds in the background and the second has given Lightning the appearance of a man recently deprived of two rolls of carpet.



Finally, there is the obligatory footwear shot:


The Five Fingers you see me wearing are actually 'Flow Treks' - they have the neoprene upper of the Flow, but the tread of the Treks. I did not even know these existed - I stumbled across them in a shop in London recently, and they seemed like the perfect solution for fell running and a way to protect my Kangaroo-skin Treks from the rigours of running.

This is good news, because the Kangaroo-skin Treks are about as close to a 'normal-looking' pair of Five Fingers as it gets, to the extent that I have actually worn them to a couple of business meetings. Well, if Sergey Brin can do it, then so can I ;-)
... Read more

Friday, 22 January 2010

Another '300' Workout Defeats Me

Location: Esporta Gym, Wimbledon, London
Date: 20th January

Workout: Cheat '300' Workout

25 Chin Ups - 14, 5, 3, 3
50 Deadlifts (Romanian) - 40, 10
50 Push Ups - 40, 10
25 x 2 Assisted Pistols - left leg (15, 10) , right leg (15, 10, 5)
50 Floor Wipers - 13, 9, 8, 8, 5, 7
25 x 2 Clean and Press with Dumbbell - right arm (25) , left arm (25)
25 Chins... did not start them!

Total Time: 31:02

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 40 minutes later.

I've decided to adopt the emoticon system to represent progress or lack of it on a particular exercise. I think it's better than the colour system I used on the BBS experiment, but would be interested in your thoughts.

This session took place in a gym in Wimbledon, where I am staying on business, so an unfamiliar layout led to more time between exercises than normal. Of course this means more rest, so there were some improvements on the numbers of sets required, in return for a longer total time.

Once again I did not complete the full circuit. I could have finished, but given I had already crossed the half hour mark and this is supposed to be an easy week, I decided to save that challenge for next time.

I did complete the floor wipers this time, which took some doing as you can see. I am puzzled by the inability of my arms and chest to keep the 60kg barbell in place for very long during these. As I recall, I could previously do the 50 reps in 2 or 3 sets.

Overall, the pain of this routine is becoming more tolerable. Some of this will be familiarity, but I hope there is a fitness component too. Given how heavily I find myself breathing during the session, it must be producing at least some fitness improvements.

I've described the gym in more detail here. Not bad for one of those generic leisure places, but with a couple of the usual irritations (nowhere to do proper chins and ceiling too low for dumbbell snatch.)
... Read more

Saturday, 16 January 2010

First Fell Run Since the Knee Op

Location: The Wrekin, Telford, UK
Date: 16th January

Ran to the top, then walked down.

Total Time
: 20:42

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 2 hours later.

Don't get the wrong idea from the satellite picture... it was a snow and ice-clad Wrekin that Lightening and I unceremoniously sloshed and skidded our way up yesterday.

The route map is courtesy of his new GPS phone which tracked us ascending from the car park (top right) to the summit 200 metres higher (bottom left) then back down the way we came.

The speed and altitude map did not really make sense, so I've not included that.

I'd elected to make this the first real trial of my Vibram Treks - the recently released Vibram Five Finger model which has a few millimetres of tread. After my skidding acrobatics wearing Vibram Flows at a fell race last year, I had decided that basic, flat-soled Five Fingers were not up to the job.

Perhaps this was not the best time to perform such a trial: my first fell run after the knee op, on a mostly sheet-ice path. However, since my companion was scarcely more sure-footed in his fell-running shoes, I think we can deliver an open verdict for now.

The photos are also courtesy of Lightening, and are not staged, honestly.

This could just about pass as a genuine 'action' photo...

...but here we are stretching the bounds of credulity.

To give you an idea of the ice: normally, Mrs M walks up the Wrekin while we run. She gets a small head start while we stretch, beat our chests and do Maori-style war dances. On this occasion she returned after five minutes and declared the route impassable.

I was pleased with the performance of the knee. Given the beating it took two days previously, and the increased stabilisation needed in the conditions, it shouldered its 50% of the responsibility for propelling me to the top with little complaint. I suspect running downhill would have taxed it more, but in those conditions we preferred to walk anyway.

The 20:42 time is far short of both our bests - previously, I have made it in sub-16 and Lightening in sub-18. I think we agreed that this was attributable as much to festive excesses as the conditions under foot. However, I felt I had more in the tank when I got to the top, so I'm looking forward to a possible visit next week to aim for a better time.

This one is authentic: I was genuinely standing there doing nothing.

I did plenty of quad stretching later that day, which my physio tells me is now going to be very important for the rehab of the knee. Until now I have not been able to bend it far enough for that to be possible.

This year's goal will be to get a respectable time in the Ben Nevis race, assuming we manage to get our entries in quick enough to beat the rush...
... Read more

Friday, 15 January 2010

Incomplete 300 Workout Exposes Lost Fitness

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 12th January

Workout: Cheat '300' Workout

25 Chin Ups - 13, 6, 4, 2
50 Deadlifts (Romanian) - 36, 14
50 Push Ups - 36, 14
25 x 2 Assisted Pistols - left leg (15, 10), right leg (10, 10, 5)
50 Floor Wipers - 15, 3, gave up....
25 x 2 Clean and Press with Dumbbell - right arm (10, 10, 5), left arm (15, 10, 5)
25 Chins... did not start them!

Total Time: 23:48

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 25 minutes later.

The pistols are instead of the box jumps for now. Jumping is the final frontier for my knee rehab. I can hop, run up stairs and jog for short distances; but jumping is not well received.

As you can see, I gave up halfway through the floor wipers - I simply couldn't support the barbell. I should have dropped the weight, but did not think of that at the time. I did complete the clean and press, though have to confess they were more like cleans. I was feeling pretty shot by this point, having perhaps not recovered from the sudden savagery of Tuesday's Tabata rowing, so I did not do the last set of 25 chins.

Half an hour later, at the physio, I was trying to explain why I could barely do any of the exercises he was setting me, but he seemed indifferent. Bad timing I guess - but I am determined to make this week a tough one so that next week I can chill out, recover, then come back the following week with some improvements under my belt.

I am going to do the cheat 300 workout regularly for a while, so I will note how many rests I need to take during an exercise and aim to reduce both the number of rests and the total time. This session has highlighted that whilst BBS has kept me fit-ish after the knee operation, I am still some way short of the fittest I have been, and would like to be again.

I appreciate that any exercise or routine, if not done regularly, will be harder and that this performance could reflect unfamiliarity rather than the loss of any base fitness, so let me put it another way: I want to get back to a place where there is a broad portfolio of movements, exercises and protocols my body can comfortably engage in. This may only give the illusion of greater fitness, but it's certainly a lot more fun and makes me think I'm fitter even if I'm not.
... Read more

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

First Post-Knee-Op Cardio: Rowing Machine Tabata

Location: Woodcock Sports Centre, Aston University
Date: 12th January

Workout: Tabata Intervals on the Rowing Machine - at about 90%.

Total Time: 5 minutes (including 1 minute warm up)

Post Workout Nutrition: this, 20 minutes later.


This is the first proper intense cardio I have done since the knee op. I was able to operate at high intensity provided I did not flex my knees too much beyond 90 degrees. Since then the knee has been fine.

But the general discomfort during the session was significant - I got that pain in the throat and windpipe I recall from school when I was made to exercise intensely, outdoors, when I was not fit. It took a few hours before that went away. That said, I had definitely not lost all my fitness - there's no way I would have got to the 8th interval if I had.

I believe I have the BBS sessions to thank for the maintenance of some fitness - but it will take a few tabatas before I am back in the groove. ... Read more

Monday, 11 January 2010

5-Minute Chin, Push-Up & Squat Combo

Location: My New House
Date: 9th January

Chins - 13 (bodyweight)
Swiss Ball Squats - 25 reps, slow, holding 2 x 15kg dumbbells
Push Ups - 35

Total workout time: 5 minutes

Post-workout nutrition: this, 25 minutes later


In each case, I did as many as I could before failure. In other words, I wanted to avoid failure, but come close.

I would have managed 14 or 15 chins, tops, had I continued. This is considerably less than the 19 I was doing at the start of my '300' workouts last year, which makes me feel I need to get back into some of those other routines this year. More on that later, when I draw some conclusions about my Body by Science Experiment. ... Read more

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Heavy Weights Circuit: A Lot of Volume in 24 Minutes

Location: My New House
Date: 6th January

this list x 3, no rest except to change weights.

10 Dumbbell Bench Press
10 Single-Arm Dumbbell Bent-Over Rows
10 Dumbbell Shoulder Press (seated)
10 Romanian Deadlift (with dumbbells)
10 Bicep Curls (with dumbbells)
10 Swiss Ball Squats (still doing these to protect the knee)
10 Ab rollouts from knees (with dumbbells)

Total workout time: 24 minutes

Post-workout nutrition: this, 25 minutes later.

I've documented this sort of routine before:

Compressed Volume, Upper Body Focus and Compressed Volume, Back Focus

It's a good way to do a lot of sets on multiple body parts without spending a long time in the gym. By rotating the exercises you allow different body parts to rest. It also gets you fit because there is no real rest except that required to change weights or move to another spot. ... Read more