I’m a big fan of stretching. Well, maybe that needs a qualifier… Let me explain.
I’m a big fan of
- General dynamic stretching before a lifting/running/exercise session
- Specific warm-up sets before lifting heavy
- General static stretching and foam rolling after a session or on off days (or just about any time)
By “general” I mean full-body, and “specific” means related to the loaded movement you will be doing in your session.
The first and second occur in the same time window as your exercise session but the third, well, that gets dicey.
See, most people blow off #3. And if they do #3, they do it before their session – the exact wrong time to do it.
Since I almost always train in the morning, I tend to do #3 in the evening. However, life sometimes gets in the way. And I forget. Or simply don’t feel like it (yeah, I’m human too).
So I’ve taken to public stretching.
By public stretching, I mean stretching in public. At the mall. In your office break room. At the airport. While watching TV with your family (ok, maybe that’s not too public but trust me, if you’ve got teen and pre-teen daughters, ANY stretching they see you do is “public” and embarrassing).
Seriously, traveling is one of the worst things to do to your body but I never see anyone doing real stretching at the airport. I travel by plane many times a year and I am honest when I say I have never seen it. Once in a while someone will do some shoulder rolls or back arches or some other so-not-a-stretch-that-it-might-actually-cause-more-harm-than-good movement. Except me.
I’m there doing bodyweight good mornings, squats, calf stretches, Atlas lunges, scaptions, etc.
No wonder my kids are mortified to travel with me. Or be seen with me in public malls.
I try to be a little discreet – I’ll go off in a corner somewhere. And I usually don’t get funny looks but I don’t care anyway.
Whether at the airport or the mall, there is often some significant time to kill. Maybe it’s 10 minutes or maybe its 2 hrs. Either way, why not get in the habit of stretching multiple times a day?
Note well: Like any endeavor, you can take it too far. Because stretching does cause micro-damage to soft tissue, you don’t want to really tax the fascia. So I’m talking ab out light stretching here, to maximize blood flow to the area and promote recovery. Stretching to increase range of motion is a different issue. (And no, stretching isn’t really stretching the muscle itself. Though I’ve never done a human dissection, I understand muscle is pretty much like play-dough. Not really stretchy – it’s the fascia that you are stretching.)
Is there some stigma to stretching in public?
Do you stretch in public? Why/why not?
Are there some stretches that are just not appropriate for public viewing?
Those of you who have been reading for the past couple of months have heard about the Spartan. Cameron did his Super Spartan in Carolina in early summer and I did the 12-miler Beast with some friends in Vermont last weekend.
This article will have 3 sections:
- Lessons Learned
- Details of the Experience, with Photos
This was a 12-mile race, but like nothing I’ve ever done. It was almost entirely hills (and I don’t mean normal hills, I mean straight up Killington ski mountain not using a trail but using a narrow woods path). And it had 26 obstacles, described below.
I did this with 3 friends, and about 1/4 of the way in we split into twos. We later found out that the leading two stayed just barely ahead right up until the 3rd to final obstacle, so we all finished in a little over 5 hours.
That’s right. Over five hours.
The elite men winners did it in about 3 hours. I think, in retrospect, if we trained a little more appropriate for the terrain, and pushed ourselves, we could have done it in 4 hours. But 3 hours seems insanely fast.
The 26 obstacles involved variations of the following:
- fire jumps
- barbed wire crawls
- wall climbs
- mud pits
- balance walks
- horizontal rope lines
- sandbag carries
- sled pulls
- oh, and did I mention hills, some of which were so steep that we were on all fours, grabbing roots and branches to keep from falling backwards?
If you failed any of the obstacles, you had to do 30 burpees. I’m proud to say that I was successful on all obstacles except one: the spear throw. I was SO frustrated when I missed that (you only get one chance).
Some people were clearly not ready for this, as evidenced by Read the rest of this entry »
I started writing this article 2 weeks ago, and it is now two days before my Spartan Beast race. See my initial Spartan training plan but that quickly morphed into additional endurance sessions – but still no days off. Hence, this article.
I’ve always been skeptical about the concept of overtraining.
I get questions all the time, usually from newer lifters, who are worried about “overtraining”. In almost every case, they are nowhere near the “overtraining” point.
Sure, I know people can push too hard too fast (like I did last year; see http://worldfitnessnetwork.com/can-you-spot-the-mistake/ and also note the update at the end of the article). That’s called “overreaching”. You’ll see this in newbies who do body-part splits with insane volume for the first week but then are too sore the following week. Some even then give up and go back to sitting on the couch. But that’s not overtraining.
The term “overtraining” is usually applied differently. Overtraining is characterized by (in no particular order)
- Long Term – Overtraining isn’t about what you do in a certain workout, no matter how off-the-hook intense or stupid. Overtraining is about what is happening over many weeks.
- Not Beginner Affect – In my experience, it’s very, very hard for a beginner to overtrain. Beginners often overdo things, like lifting too much too soon. Or using crappy form. Or the classic of starting out all intensely, then missing workouts because they are “too sore”. That’s not overtraining. Overtraining is much more likely in intermediate or advanced lifters.
- Systemic Regression in Your Lifts – I’m not talking about one week not being able to lift as much as the previous week. That’s normal and happens from time to time (especially if you start a new routine using higher weight than you should). I’m talking about over the period of several weeks, all – or almost all – of your lifts are getting weaker.
- Constant Joint Pain – You are always in pain, including joint pain and pain in places you’ve never really had pain before.
- Persistent Muscle Soreness – Similar to previous, but this is in your muscles.
- Strong Desire To Skip Workouts – I always look forward to lifting. Always. But not always psyched for my runs. However, in an overtrained state, you really loathe the idea of exercising. And even dire-hard lovers of lifting/running start to hesitate.
- Decreased Motivation – Even outside the gym, you are unmotivated. Could lead to depression, irritability.
- Susceptibility to Injury – The combination of chronic pain leads to compensation. Also, your mental focus is off, so you might not tighten your core during your squats. Etc. Injury is just around the corner.
- Inability to Complete Workouts – If you are finding that you can only get half way through workouts that you have previously been doing in full, then that’s a warning sign.
- Other Biological Changes – for example, resting heart rate increasing, disordered sleep, lack of appetitie, elevated cortisol (for a full list see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overtraining)
Not just lifters – happens to runners too. Any regular activity where you are pushing yourself daily (or almost daily). And this isn’t just about “recovery time” though that plays a part.
So what causes overtraining and how do you prevent it?
There’s a good reason rock climbers use chalk: improved grip.
Of course, chalk isn’t just good for climbers. Lifting heavy requires substantial grip tenacity. Especially in the summer, with humidity high.
I’ve been working my my grip strength for many months now, usually once a week doing plate pinches, towel hangs, etc. at the end of a workout.
But I had never tried chalk.
(That is, aside from 20 yrs ago and a friend sneaked some chalk into the university gym. That was back when I thought a good routine had “arms days” and no, using chalk to better grip the handles on the leg extension machine is not what I am talking about today!)
Most commercial/franchised gyms don’t allow chalk, and even though I workout in my home gym, I never thought it was necessary. For deadlifts, the hardest grip lift that I regularly do, I simply moved the mixed grip (one hand pronated, the other supinated).
But I recently bought a chalk ball – it’s like a sock stuffed with chalk and that really reduces the mess.
Holy cow – what a major improvement.
Seriously, I am now deadlifting with a standard grip (both hands supinated) weights that I previously could only do with a mixed grip. Just by using chalk. (Of course, a max deadlift requires more than a strong grip, so it’s not like I added 100 pounds to the dead overnight.)
And for power-movements (e.g. cleans, high pulls, etc.) the chalk is like a miracle.
Then there are lifts where you grip the bar where there is no knurling – like a sumo-stance rack pull. These are nearly impossible without chalk. I did add about 50 pounds overnight to that lift just by using chalk.
I can say without hesitation, now that I’ve gotten more experience, that chalk is far superior to using wrist straps (see my cautious recommendations on straps here).
How To Add Chalk To Your Lifting
Here are 5 Guidelines for adding chalk: Read the rest of this entry »
It’s been a while since I’ve thrown open the floor and done a good Q&A session. Some of you long time subscribers might remember that we sometimes did these via podcast/mp3 but let’s keep this simple. In the comments section below, ask me ANY fitness related question. Completely open. I will then do two things:
a) I will answer every single one personally (or, if it is an area I don’t know about, I will get the answer from one of my expert colleagues)
b) For the 3 best questions (my opinion), I will give those people a FREE copy of one of my ebooks or lifting routines
So, ask away! I’m guessing I’ll post the answers in about a week or so, depending on volume. I want at least 25 questions ok? Read the rest of this entry »
Cameron’s Spartan Experience…
Cameron did the Spartan in The Carolina’s the weekend of June 25th. Here is his first-hand account…
The race was intended to be approx. 8 miles with 15 obstacles. The fastest times were intended to be around 80 minutes. It ended up being (after adding the turns) about 10 miles and 19 obstacles (+/- 1, depending on how you count); the fastest time was 106 minutes; only about 1 mile of it total was straight pathway, and about only about 2 miles was flat. It was so difficult that they added a an extra water station. This is my account and perspective on the race, and the events leading up to it…
Friday afternoon was a drive to our hotel. About 5 miles from Columbia, SC. It took us about 3 hours with a food stop to arrive at the hotel from Greensboro, NC. Honestly, I really didn’t want to do this race. If you haven’t been following the WFN forums then you don’t know, but the only reason I did this race was because a co-worker of mine (further known as “Rudy”) asked me to and wanted some support. At this point, my goal was just to finish. Previously, the furthest I had ever run in my life was a 5k, about 9 years ago. I was dreading going. However, in the hotel room I said, and I quote myself, “It’s amazing how little I care about running this dumb event, but, watch tomorrow when I get to the course and I get all competitive and try and kill myself to beat everyone else.”, which ended up being pretty much true.
Friday night was a relaxing evening for the 4 of us who came on the trip. One of the people who came along is a client of mine who had a birthday a few days ago. We ended up going to a San Jose Mexican restaurant and getting her a birthday treat. It was a good thing to break the tension for Rudy and myself.
Saturday morning came at about 6:00. I was trying to stay pretty serene about the whole event. Grabbed some eggs and toast from the Waffle House next to our hotel for a pre-race snack. I was warming up at this point to the idea of running the race. I decided on a new goal, to finish in less than 2 hours. Our heat time started at 10:30am and wanted to be done by 12:30pm to see the end of the awards ceremony that started at 12:00. I felt like it was a pretty do-able goal. By the time I saw the race grounds and took in the atmosphere, put on my music, and changed into my race attire I was totally stoked and ready to go.
From here on I am going to explain the race in more detail and break it down into segments to that it was easy to follow.
Our obstacles for this event are as follows:
- A fire pit jump after the initial hill
- A small lake with an underwater swim under some floating barrels
- Over, under, and through 6 different walls
- Stump run
- A rope wall
- Tire carry
- Barbed wire
- Monkey bars
- Cinder blocks
- Water rope climb
- 50m swim
- Over water rope climb
- Sandbag carry pt. 1
- Cliff jump
- Sandbag pt. 2
- 6 mud pits
- 2 more wall climbs
- Another fire pit
- Javelin throw
- Rope wall
Spartan Race line-up
By the time we lined-up to start our heat and received a speech I had already signed the “Wall of Valor” and was done warming up. Mentally, I was totally focused and ready to kill some distance. Rudy and myself got a good starting spot about 5 feet from the starting line, out of a group of about 100ish people.
The Race is Off
If you were following the WFN forums (if not I recommend going to check it out here) you know that Rudy and myself were doing interval training on a 100 meter hill. Obviously, looking at the earlier picture, there was a pretty steep hill at the start (at least 45 degrees, and that’s being conservative) followed by a fire jump. That being said I’m glad we did it. Even after taking my time going up the hill we were easily ahead of about 1/8th of the pack,somewhere near the top 20. I then proceeded to run through the fire hose as it was 95 degrees outside and headed for the next obstacle, a man-made pond with a line of barrels floating for us to swim under. I picked up some more spots here, but ended up waiting for Rudy to catch up so basically broke even. I will inform you that I decided Friday morning that I would definitely need my music (another thing mentioned on the forums) so I came up with what I thought was a genius idea. I put my MP3 player in a Ziploc bag in my pocket. In retrospect it didn’t go so well…
The bad times start
About ½ mile into the race my shoe actually split right down the middle. I really didn’t think much off it at the time. It made it a little harder, from a balance standpoint, but, nothing too major. Right afterward we came across 6 walls about 6 feet high. The first was just a simple pull-up essential. The second wall was raised with razor wire over the top. We crawled under a gap of about 12 inches from the ground. The third had some tires about 3 ½ feet off the the ground in the middle to crawl through. The last three walls were just repeats. Again, overall the obstacle wasn’t bad. At this point I actually started to get what I thought was a rock in my shoe. This was rough when I had to run across small fence posts cut off to about a foot off the ground. I had no balance and fell of and did 30 up-downs to move on.
After about a 1 ½ mile trek through the rolling trails we came to a rope wall. It was basically a giant triangle we had to climb over. Right afterward was the first water tent. I quickly asked while grabbing water if they had some athletic tape so that I could tape my shoe. The told me that they didn’t have any but would order some to show up at the next station for me. So I moved on.
But wait, we were just warming up
About ½ mile later I realized that I was getting a blister on my foot and that it wasn’t actually a rock. The blister had split and was hitting rocks on the ground. The walking started about here sporadically, but I could run on the outside of my foot so I kept going most of the way. It was about 1 mile until the next obstacle. The next obstacle was pretty long and took about 5 minutes. We carried good year race car tires on our shoulders down a twisty hill then back up. The distance totaled about a ½ mile and we ended up finishing right where we started and just plopping the tire back down.
We then came up to the barbed wire, after another mile or so run of course. I was limping pretty badly by this time. The barbed wire was about 100 yards and was about 10 inches off the ground, give or take about 4 inches because they were varying heights. The average time it took people to get through was probably about 5 minutes. It took me about a 1 ½ minutes, thank you years and years of football practice and barrel rolls. They looked at me when I finished like I was a freak of nature. Right at the exit of the barbed wire was the second water stop. This was about 4 miles into the race.
That’s TOTAL B.S.
I arrive and ask about the tape. Of course, they have no idea what I was talking about. I basically tied my shoe together and tied a torn cup to my foot. It took about 10 minutes for me to do it though, so Rudy went on ahead, since he could still run. Most of the trek was walking as this point. I managed to get a jog going during a few flat places, but only added up to MAYBE ¾ of a mile throughout the rest of the race. At this point a basically said, “Screw you Spartan Race, I’m going to finish.”
Distance at this point was pretty much a blur, but the next obstacle was a cinder block raise. Basically some pulleys were hooked up to some cinder blocks and we had to raise and lower them with a rope. It was a pretty big river run at this point to the next obstacle. A good mile, easily.
The next one was a ramp into a pool of water. At the end of the pool was a vertical, muddy, rocky wall. The wall had 6 ropes hanging over the edge tied to a bulldozer. We had to climb out of the water (about waist deep) to dry land. There was no grip and sucked. I fell once and had to redo it, but from what I heard, two tries was pretty good. The last water station was right at the exit of this obstacle. It was all downhill after here… my luck, not the course.
More water and hills
The next obstacle, after a good hike was a 50 meter swim, followed by climbing back over the water on a raised rope going across the water. The swimming part was what I had an issue with. Then, not ¼ mile afterward they handed me a 45 lb. Sandbag to throw over my shoulder. I took the sandbag, hiked down the mountain to a giant cliff. I set the bag down, walked up the cliff and jumped into the water. I didn’t have too much of an issue there at least, I’ve done some small cliff jumping into rivers before off of a 45 foot rock, so their 20 foot jump was a break. I carried myself out of the pond walked to my sandbag, and back up I went to once again, set it down right where I got the dumb thing.
The final stretch
I swear they saved the hard obstacles for the end. Here I am, limping almost vertical up a ½ mile hill and I get up top and there is 6 mud pits. Each mud pit had water in it and a hill at the end to climb up. They were VERY slick, I had one good foot, and each on got taller and steeper than the previous one. Apparently, even after all the troubles I was only 15 minutes behind Rudy.
At this point, I was pretty much toast, but was able to clear the last two walls with ease, in comparison to the last 6 obstacles.
Then I went back down the first hill we went up at the start of the race to the Javelin throw, which I failed miserably.
The last major obstacle was a rope wall. One attempt and done. My calf cramped at the end and I couldn’t get it out for about 10 minutes after the race though. I climbed the wall and pretty much willed myself and limped across the finished line.
After checking the times I finished in 2:33:32. Not bad considering I only had one foot essentially, a popped blister the size of a nickel, and had to walk ¾ of the race. Not to mention that I only finished 5 minutes behind Rudy.
Finally, for all you people who want to see why this race sucked…
I think it was a good experience. I really almost hit my goal and really had the entire universe against me. I originally said NEVER again, but honestly… maybe if it’s next year. I figure it’ll give me time to block it all out. A spartan sprint (3 miler) would be pretty fun though. Rudy’s wife and my client, Christine, want to try a sprint, so we’ll see. Overall, I was still pretty proud of my performance mentally, and NOBODY really expected me to finish by the time we found out they didn’t have any tape for me. I’ll leave you all with these final words from my fortune cookie that I got earlier this week. “Attitude, not aptitude, determines your altitude.”
It’s almost too cliche to have fitness sites talking about abs and stomach fat as summer approaches, but then again, that’s important to most readers this time of year.
Have you heard of the difference between visceral fat and subcutaneous fat? Mike Geary has a great article this week on the topic. You can check it out:
After you read it, let me know what you think – do you want more articles from Mike?
Or do you have any specific questions related to this topic?