Thursday, March 24, 2011

Body Maintenance

I have some aches and pains these days, and last week I had a bunch of them. From my back hurting after 50 squats with 185#, to just being overall sore. My shoulder likes to act up now and then, because I separated it playing football almost ten years ago. I have arthritis in my knees and flat feet, and levo-convex scoliosis, which, near as I can tell, means my tailbone slants to the left instead of being straight.

That said, as I was telling some people a few weeks ago, I no longer believe that injuries have to slow a person down. They might slow you down for a little while, but I firmly believe that an inclusive fitness regimen that involves strength training and stretching can work wonders.

Also, myo-fascial release is an amazing tool in my opinion.

A person can and probably should go to a massage therapist regularly, especially if they are engaging in hard training.

However, there are also things we can do at home, and tools that can be used by ourselves. I use some of these things regularly, and it makes a huge difference in the soreness I feel and the range of motion I have.

I have a bunch of their products. Some work better than others, I love the foam roller they have.
Haven't tried this yet, but I think it may be worth a look at some point in time.

I personally use some of these tools almost every day trying to recover for the next workout.

As an example, I participated in a CrossFit competition back in December. It was rough, it was brutal, it destroyed my lower back. I used my roller briefly at the end of every event, and when Monday rolled around, I walked into the gym and squatted a new personal best, despite the soreness. I also had a much easier time walking around the next few days than everyone else, and my soreness went away a lot sooner. The stuff works.

Lastly, my all time favorite website for fixing issues that I have with my muscles and joints:

The man knows his stuff, pure and simple, and he's got a very simple approach to improving performance. Plus, once I got the hang of what he does and why, I've been able to address my issues on my own. For example, after a week with heavy shoulder workouts, I had very little range of motion in the shoulder that I separated. Coincidentally, there was a post on the Mobility WOD about shoulder mobility. I took some notes, went to the gym for the next week and did the exercises every day, before, after, and sometimes during the workout. I now have probably 99% of my range of motion(ROM) in my right shoulder, pain free.

Give this stuff a try, I urge you. See what a difference it can make in your own training.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tools and Building Tools

A few years ago I was in a firearms training class, a level one defensive pistol course. The instructor used the phrase "tools to build the tools", meaning we were learning the drills in order to learn the skills necessary to properly and safely employ a pistol in self-defense.

This is a phrase that I've remembered since that class six years ago. It applies to many areas of life, in my opinion, but especially in learning new physical skills. There are fundamentals of each skill set and skill area that must be learned in order to progress to more advanced concepts. Call it what you want, such as crawl-walk-run, each phase must be learned before progressing.

For example, in the martial arts, learning to punch properly must be preceded by learning to move properly, both forward and backwards. Then the mechanics of a punch must be learned, such as how power is transferred and how the hand can move throughout the punch. Finally, proper position of the wrist must be stressed, and possibly the wrist must be strengthened through different exercises. These drills and exercises are all tools that are used to build the punching tool in a fighter's toolbox.

Once the fighter knows how to throw a punch, then the process becomes self-sustaining. The person in question now has a tool to use in training, at any time, any place, in order to further their martial-arts training. Learning the straight punch opens the way for the martial artist to learn, possibly on their own, several other punches, including uppercuts, jabs, hooks, overheads, and backfists. Thus, the fundamental skill drills have built the punch into a tool that can be used to further enhance a student's martial arts repertoire.

In exercise, we learn the fundamental movements such as pushups, pullups, dips, squats, and lunges, and then apply them to more advanced exercises. Bench press, back squats, shoulder press, deadlifts, and front squats are all what I consider to be intermediate exercises. From here, the athlete has the option of learning more skill based movements such as kipping pullups, cleans, clean and jerks, snatches, push jerks, split jerks, squat cleans, and so on and so forth. Once these tools are built, the athlete has a means of pursuing fitness goals in a variety of positions, and experimenting with different movements, and a combination of movements.

These are not new concepts, any coach worth their salt will tell their athletes that the fundamentals are the most important thing, and must be mastered above all else. This goes for basketball, football, baseball, and running. Master the fundamental, and master the skills.

For the athlete interested in cross-training, mastering skills outside of the athlete's primary sport can lead to great innovations in cross training, and shift the training paradigm. Weightlifting skills will add not only strength, but coordination to a runner's build. Yoga will hit many of the stabilizer muscles that weightlifting neglects, as will gymnastics practice.

This is of interest for the solo athlete, but also for the solo martial artist. I find it of great interest to create my own training routines, and mix different skills. I also believe that the greater skill set, the more complete athlete and martial artist I can become, and the more I can mix up what i want to do when I am not training indoors.

The other reason that I enjoy learning new skills and new skill sets is because I believe it makes the pursuit of my exercise goals much more fun, challenging, and ultimately rewarding. For example, after running around the loop at the park, I like to stop at the pullup bar and do some pullups. My brother-in-law and I were discussing parkour and free-running recently, and he pointed out that the playground at the park would make an excellent place to execute some of the movements and also add depth to my running.

However, before I can do that, I need to learn the fundamentals of parkour such as vaults and jumps. To this end, I have been researching gymnastics and parkour locations in my area, which is Traverse City, Michigan. Gymnastics coaching would also beneficial to my weightlifting and CrossFit training, in bettering my handstand pushups as well as enabling me to learn and properly execute a muscle-up.

In this way, going outside of my normal skill set enables me to develop additional tools to further enhance my athletic goals. The important part is to seek out someone with knowledge that one seeks. If a martial artist desires to learn grappling, they don't go to a boxing coach. Likewise, a runner seeks out a weightlifting coach in order to learn proper lifting technique. Then the athlete takes these skills they have acquired and applies them in the way that benefits his goals the most.

In this way many people can learn from different disciplines, in exercise and martial arts. The tools become something that the athlete or martial artist uses to further construct a deepening repertoire of movement, and expression. Building one's tools leads to a greater freedom from form, which ultimately leads to greater self-expression, which to me, is what martial arts and fitness pursuits are ultimately in search of.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Today's Workout and Post In Honor of Major Richard Winters

As many in the military community may be aware, Major Dick Winters, former commander of Easy Company, 2nd Battalion 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, died on January 2nd at the age of ninety two.

As a result of reading this on the internet, both news articles and postings from my friends, I decided that I would create a workout today, name it and execute it in his honor.

"Major Winters" 3 rounds for time
135 lbs push press x 10
10 pullups
10 Ring pushups
10 renegade rows
10 kettlebell swings, 2 pood

Now, the only thing I have for pullups at the house is my Metolius Project Simulator board, which, while I love it, torches my forearms for everything they are worth. Next time I hope to go up to four rounds, and ultimately make it to five rounds. I plan on doing this workout every month until I get to five rounds total.

I read Stephen Ambrose's book "Band of Brothers" when I was stationed in Alaska, shortly after the Tom Hank's and Steven Spielberg miniseries came out. I only got to see the first episodes of the miniseries, as we went to the field the next day for close to two weeks. After we got back it was over. However, after I returned from the field I purhased "Band of Brothers" from a bookstore in Anchorage.

When I finished the book, I was very much in awe of everything that the men of Easy Company had endured, and the bond that they developed. This book was one of the books responsible for changing the way I think about the military and military service. This was one of my first steps to realizing that we become part of something greater than ourselves when we join.

In my opinion, the book does a good job telling the story of Easy Company. It is my opinion, however, that the miniseries does an excellent job of really bringing home every soldiers' struggles and contributions to the overall success of Easy Company both in training and across Europe. Major Winters' contributions are first seen in the assault on an entrenched artillery battery in Carentan, where a German Artillery battery is laying down indirect fire on the soldiers wading ashore on the beach. In my opinion, the sequence of the hasty plan, emplacement of the machine guns, and the beginning of the assault does an excellent job of showcasing the chaos and action that happens in combat. This is where the viewer really begins to see then Lieutenant Winters' strength of character.

The second thing that I believe the miniseries showcases in a most excellent manner is how much Major Winters cared about his troops, and how much he loved them. At one point, he goes so far as to nearly abandon his battalion in order to take command of the company he loves, only to be ordered back into place by his brigade commander.

The interviews with Major Winters are quite poignant, as well as giving even more insight into the man's character. The words that were said by another paratrooper, Sergeant Mike Ranney, summed up how Major Winters felt about his soldiers. "I treasure my remark to my grandson who asked, 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said, 'No... but I served in a company of heroes'".

So, in summary, I salute you, Major Dick Winters, for your service above and beyond the call of duty, beyond anything that was asked of you. May you rest in peace.