It’s now officially February, so where I have been doing a lot of strength training with the heavy iron, the time has come to switch into a more focused swim/run/bike routine.  Meaning, of course, especially given that I have also started a new job two weeks ago, I have to now figure out how to keep this acquired physical strength while strategically transitioning into this next phase of longer Ironman-specific training.

Losing a few pounds also wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

So this regard, I tried something new this past Friday:  a “Boot Camp”.

This all came about last week when I approached Tamara, the wife of my long time go-to bike guy, about getting some assistance to take my strength training to the next level.  That’s when she mentioned that she leads an early “boot camp” on Friday morning that would be perfect for me.

I will admit here I was a bit trepidatious as I have always thought of “Boot Camps” as those trendy fitness classes more aimed at single moms to help shape their derriere’s; hence the other popular name for these classes being “Booty Camps”.

But knowing Tamara as I do, I figured I’d give it a shot thinking that a workout more aimed at plyometric jumping and leaping would be the perfect accompaniment to my newly acquired He-man muscles – ideal even.

But then, the night before, Tamara posts this picture (and caption) to her Facebook page:

Tamara

“Come check out my fancy toe undies and get a great workout in flexibility, stretching and strength.”

That’s when the panic hit me:

OMG.

“Toe Undies”?

What the fuck have I gotten myself into?

After all, nobody needs to see my toenails, believe me.

She then mentioned having extra “tu-tu’s” for the class and I was almost:

27459961_10155895319295977_8633476163394408707_n

Still, having made the commitment I decided to show up anyway.

After all, how hard can a “Booty Camp” be?

Then again, you might also remember this shit show from three years ago (click HERE).

Only one way to tell, I guess.

So far, I have only attended two classes but they are exactly the kinds of workouts I still need to be doing providing I can drag my lazy ass out of bed at 4:30am to make the 40 minute drive into St. Catharines.

This is the nicest way possible to say that I did enjoy it.

I’m not sure I’ll look any different in my cycling tights come Springtime but having someone push you through those difficult sets of plyometric-based exercises sure is the kind of strength-building program that I like to endorse not because they don’t require a lot of tools that can’t be recreated at home with simple every day households items, but because it targets all those useful functional muscles you tend to use and abuse in long distance triathlon training.

And, hey, if at the end of the day this “booty” looks a little better in my daily work khakis’, well, I’m okay with that too.

Turning this Frankenstein into “Franken Fine” wouldn’t be the worst thing ever.

Just sayin’…

Be all that it may, for the next 50 minutes I handed my fat ass literally handed to me by a toe-undied She-Devil adorned in a tutu through sets of sled pushes, crunches, push-ups, lunges, and, oh sweet Jesus, every movement and exercise known to mankind to absolutely suck, particularly these vile things called “Man Maker’s”, which have made perfectly clear to me that I am apparently not  a man.

The shame of which, I doubt I will ever get over.

Throw one of those fucking ‘Burpees’ into the mix and you have the perfect mix of Punky Brewster-like cuteness and enthusiasm with a gruesome Rob Zombie-esque nightmare of a workout…creepy clowns n’ all.  It was the kind of hellish workout from which my testicles instantly retreated back into my abdomen to hide in fear once Tamara started to walk us through the class plan which included seven separate “stations”, each consisting of two each torturous exercises each.

be5

But then again, they say that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger, so Friday mornings 6:00am(providing my work schedule will allow it), my sorry self is starting off the weekend of long haul swim, bike and run workouts with one kick ass of a Booty Camp.

Judge me as you see fit.

But when this winter finally goes away, even if I haven’t managed some of the incalculable hours battled away in front of Zwift on the home trainer as some of my peers will no doubt have, or perhaps pursuing a “February Running Distance Challenge” bullshit thing on Strava, I’ll be counting on these types of simpler (but no less grueling) workouts to allow me the maximum brute strength necessary and when it needs to be called upon while on the bike, in the pool or out pounding pavement on the road later on.

This is going to be my total Rocky IV approach to training this year.

(Albeit  in a gym and not a barn)

While the wily opponent is relying on all the new fancy muscle juices and state-of-the-art training equipment, I’ll be out chopping logs, hauling around sacks of rocks, and dragging my ass through mountains of snow.

And I will leave you with this:

If this class leaves me with even half  of the physical functional strength as I think it will, then I will happily adorn myself with a pair of these “Toe Undie” whatchamacallit’s  and a full French Maid’s tu-tu because, well, laugh while you can because come the inevitable Race Day, that’s likely the last you will see of me when I take off leaving you dumbfounded, gasping for air and swimming upstream through a river of my piss (triathletes will understand that reference).

Or so it plays out in my visions anyway…

So continue on with your empty laps, your virtual races through the night-time streets of Paris, and whatever the newest piece of fancy “GUARANTEED TO PRODUCE RESULTS OR YOUR MONEY BACK!” equipment you found on Ebay during a “Box Day Blowout”, I’ll be taking the old-fashioned route; an honest effort, a desire to success and a well-fitted and stylish tu-tu.

I’m still not sold on the Toe Undies though.

Advertisements

Introducing: Romeo

Posted: January 13, 2018 in Bike, Equipment
Tags: , ,

It has become of a bit of joke with my wife these days regarding the amount of bikes I now own and, yes, I do ride them all.

Honestly.

What can I say?

Guilty.

And in case any one doubts that one only needs a single bike to ride, I will argue that there is a very simple mathematical formal that addresses this very question:

N+1

And you simply can’t argue with math.

It’s the universal language after all.

Anyway, back in October I lead a group ride out of Brimstone Brewing; the weather was extremely cold and wet and only two other riders (beside me that is) actually showed up.

However, before we actually got started a neighbour next door to the brewery came running over and asked:

“Hey, do you guys like bikes?”

Umm…

duh

He then proceeded to mention that he was moving and had a bunch of old bikes he wanted to get rid of because he was moving.

At the time I didn’t give it much thought as we eager to get going since our nutsacks were beginning to freeze to our bike seats, but I agreed to drop by when we got back to take a little looksee.

The ride went pretty much how you might guess p – we froze.

However, upon our return I kept my promise and walked over to see these “old bikes”; more to get out of the cold and thaw off than anything else.

Much to my surprise, this is what he showed me:

modena

I was a little dryer in this picture…

An Italian Fiori Modena, circa late 1980’s.

As far as classic steel bikes go, the Modena model wasn’t exactly a top of the line model and, clearly, it needed a little love, but the guy was motivated to get rid of it.

“How about twenty bucks?”

I didn’t even bat an eyelash.

SOLD!

When I came home and told the wife, I got that classic non-believer’s line:

“Don’t you have enough bikes already?”, to which I responded:

henrylaugh

Remember…

It’s math.

You can’t argue the numbers.

I took it to Brandon at Inception Cyclery, my trusted bike guy, for some simple restoration.

Now, already having a) a regular road bike (Daisy), b) a time trial racing bike (Lucille), c) my dad’s classic steel that I ride with HRH, and c) a mountain bike (Snowflake) for winter training, so he suggested that we do a little something different with it.

“How about a ‘grocery getter’? 

After all, it’s not often that I take any of my other bikes to do local errands as that’d be like taking a Rolls Royce to the Avondale for Lotto tickets.

Not a bad idea actually.

“Yeah, sure.  Let’s do it.”

Who couldn’t use another custom bike, amiright?

What this meant then is that what came back to me after four months of planning, tuning, and remodelling was something completely unexpected, awesome and beautiful:

Now I have something fun I can take to the weekend market for fresh produce, to the grocery store for all those forgotten items Kelly will periodically ask me to go fetch for dinner, or maybe even to the brewery to refill my growler.

Welcome to the fleet Romeo.

I’ve been getting back into a pretty regular off-season winter strength training routine these days.

Okay, the running isn’t going as well as I’d like it to (yet), but the core work, spinning, swimming and throwing around the heavy iron are right on target.

Yay me.

Really, my only complaint is the usual flood of New Years’ Resolutioner’s who are now beginning to flood the gym and invading my holy sacred ground with their stupidity and bullshit – as to be expected I suppose.

Seriously people, observe the Gym Commandments will ya?

Actually, observe ALL the Commandments (click HERE and HERE).

But I digress…

Anyway, as per usual, I try to keep myself to myself while I’m upstairs in the gym area.

I am not there to take selfies or chat up strangers.

I am there to build muscle that I will then use on my swim, bike and run workouts through the coming weeks and months.

And then I go home.

Period.

So there I am this afternoon, politely ignoring everyone else, doing my reps on the bench press and listening to my groovy Parliament funk when this middle age dipshit walks directly up to me and just stands here gawking at my awesomeness.

(Or so I figured at first because, obviously, I am quite amazing to behold in all my gym glory…NOT!)

I mentally crossed my fingers at this point that he was just waiting for the machine, albeit a bit too close, so I smiled politely and diverted myself back to the task at hand of kicking ass on my chest presses except that after another minute or so, he moves a fraction closer, clearly trying to get my attention now.

Fucksticks.

Maybe he just has a newbie question he wants to ask I tell myself, or I’ve maybe dropped my card and he’s nicely trying to return it, or perhaps my balls are hanging out of my shorts and he’s trying to save me from further embarrassment, whatever.

I hate this moment of uncertainty.

Anyway, I reluctantly flicked off the tunes in my iPod (interrupting a sweet jam in the middle of ‘The Goose’) and looked up at him to find out whatever it was he was obviously so dying to talk to me about.

He then proceeds to blurt out this worthy nugget:

“You know, if you really want to lose weight you should try spinning”.

 

And the whole time he’s pointing directly at my midsection.

picardwtf

Is this guy serious?

“Really”, was all I could respond with.

I was 100% taken aback.

Who does that?

Unfortunately, though, he didn’t note the tone of sarcasm in my voice so he continues:

“Oh yeah, you’d totally burn some serious calories doing that.”

 

Yup.

He was serious alright.

For those of you who grace these blogs pages fairly regularly, you will already know that I tend to bump into some pretty weird people quite a bit.  Despite all my very best efforts to avoid people – the morons and know-it-all’s particularly.   I have absolutely no idea what it is about me that drives people to do this as they all seem to immediately target me in order to offer me all sorts of unwelcome advice, tips, suggestions or whatever other bullshit it is that’s on their pea brains that also they’ve decided that I simply can’t go living without hearing.

Jackasses.

So numbnuts continues on:

“I hear there’s a great spin class here on Monday nights at 6:30pm.  I hear the instructor is really good so I’m going to check it out next week.  You should come”.

 

Now, the obvious implication that I am fat aside, what this shit-spackled Muppet fart also doesn’t realize is that *I*  am that  Monday night spin instructor.

tenor

Dude, my belly has about as much to do with my ability to churn out the cycle wattage, as pickled herring has to do with ice cream.

Although, I’m not about to tell him that…yet.

Instead, I just said “Okay, you’re on.  I’ll see you there.”

Personally, I cannot wait for Monday night as the poor bastard has no idea what he’s in for, as I am going to crush him like a late season Gewürztraminer.  This fat bastard is going to throw the hard intervals at him until his limbs fall apart like a chocolate orange and his spirit begins to crumble like downtown Haiti.

And judging from what little activity I actually did see him do for the remainder of my workout – which was little – he’s not going to walk for a week.

So, yeah, get ready to have your nips blown off, bud.

And, hey, maybe next time you’ll think twice about passing on advice.

How do you like my fat now?

The Shower Commandments

Posted: December 30, 2017 in Gym, Lifestyle
Tags: ,

(Disclaimer:  I realize that much of this post comes from a dark place.  Baring in mind that I am now 45 years old going on “TGIF Early Bird Special”, I find that I have a lot to bitch about these days and I recognize that.  This is definitely one of those posts.  If those types of rants tend to annoy you, click ‘back’ on your browser and tippy-toe out of here.)

The “off season” training program has officially kicked -in with the falling of the first snow a few weeks ago, so what this means then for the uninitiated is that it also marks an official return to indoor workouts.

Well, more indoor workouts than usual anyway.

Sure there are a few bad asses like myself who pride themselves in maintaining a structured outdoor winter training program regardless of how ridiculously cold out it is but even still, there’s the strength-training, core, yoga, swimming and, yes, sometimes it’s just too stupid to be outside when the shit really begins to fly so there will be the inevitable treadmill and spin sessions as well.  So what this all really translates to now is that we have to spend more time with one another vying for space and valuable resources.

I hate it, but I accept it.

On that pretense, I once wrote The Gym Commandments to educate myself – then a mere newbie on the inner goings on at the gym – on how to share the gym space with others so that nobody ends up with a barbell sticking out the side of their head, and then The Locker Room Commandments for not, well, ending up with someone’s penis waving uncomfortably in your vicinity.  And here I am six years later still abiding by these same necessary laws as they are what genuinely separate us from the other beasts walking this little blue planet of ours, and even expanding on them to more include the true “DMZ” at your local gym facility, the dreaded showers.

In other words, how not to be any of these guys:  click HERE.

Most of the men I see in my gym’s locker room every day are probably decent people.  They have, one assumes, respectable, well-paying jobs, families, certain codes of ethics and morals, and they are presumably upstanding members of society.  So why, once they pass that threshold that reads MEN, do they devolve into feral beasts? Why do they discard the entire social contract by which they abide outside the locker room once in the realm of towels and benches?  Balls out, butts jiggling, hogging coveted real estate, they become locker room anarchists. To put it quite abruptly, lots of weird shit goes on in the Men’s shower area, so much so that I feel that a rehashing of the basics is necessary for review.  After all, we are all mere riders on this same endless highway ribboning through the madness of it all, so we should at least be making things less stressful on each other by all agreeing to observe an officially recognized code of shower room ethics.

Yes, friends, the gym shower area absolutely needs to be a place of strictly observed rules of conduct and listed here are some of those proposed basic guidelines I suggest we all consider if we are ever going to coexist peacefully at the gym:

  1. Thou shalt not be a dick with the towels.

For those members who pay for and use the towel service, two towels is perfectly reasonable.  Don’t be an asshole and take a stack of five.  One for your body which then becomes one for your feet to stand on while the other (unused) towel can be used for spot drying and general modesty protection (refer to The Locker Room Commandments linked above).  They are not for playing “spooky ghost”, wiping ones ass, or running around flicking other dudes in the ass.

If you are doing double (or even triple) duty as far as workouts go, you can request an extra towel as long as it’s being used for either the purposes of drying off or standing on.  Period.

  1. Thou shalt not hog the handicap shower stall.

Using and occupying the reserved shower head and bench that will likely occupy a corner of the shower area for those who need a little extra assistance is simply not cool; no matter how quick you think you’re going to be.  This is the equivalent of occupying a handicapped parking space so you can just “run in to the bank”, or “pick up a few items from the grocery store”.

Nobody cares how quick you are, you’re still being an asshole for parking in a handicap spot.

And, yes, I know how much fun it can be to use the attached manual shower head as a pretend microphone and belt out rousing shower renditions of ‘Great Balls of Fire’ for all your naked able-bodied friends, but don’t do it.

  1. Thou shalt keep thyne eyes forward as all times.

While it is already a well-established rule that one should always keep their nakedness to a minimum, it is also the obligation and responsibility of the others present to keep their eyes to themselves.

Let’s face it, the locker room being men-only, is wall-to-wall butts, balls and penises and therefore you should definitely never look at any other man’s private parts in any other way but purely accidental (like HERE and HERE).  Should you need to actually engage someone in conversation (which is not recommended, for the record – see Rule #9 of The Locker Room Commandments), one should lock their gaze straight ahead to a neutral position such as another locker, the ground, bench, or the ceiling, anywhere but the other dudes junk…no matter how impressive or intimidating.

  1. Thou shalt not poke, pick, prod or otherwise fondle their junk.

I get it, its Man’s inherent nature to explore himself when naked.  But for the love of God, do it at home.  Light some candles; put a little ‘Smooth Operator on, whatever, but do it quietly and do it where others have no opportunity to bear witness.

  1. Thou shalt practice water conservation.

The most common violation in terms of the future of mankind is allowing the water to run while shaving. It is an insidious, entitled habit which will doom all of humanity to a future of drought and privation.

It also poisons the locker room dynamic.  On the one hand, there is the shaver, perhaps blithe but nonetheless sinning.  Then there is the observer (i.e. myself), for whom the endless stream of water is an insult, representing, as it does, a conception of nature that is at once exploitative and deeply harmful. There can be no verbal admonishments in the locker room so the observer is left to swallow bitterly his outrage and cast dirty looks in the mirror.  Do not let the water run while you shave.  Don’t be an asshole.  Think of the children.

  1. Thou shalt not touch another man’s faucet.

Nuff said (click HERE)…

  1. Thou shalt not readth the daily scripture in the shitter.

Seriously, guys who like to hang out in the toilets all day with the daily news need to be rounded up and systematically sterilized.  Most of us when we hit the gym are time crunched so when Mother Nature calls we don’t want to spend the better part of our workout time waiting for these dipshits to read the Sports pages while they squeeze out their daily strangle.  Get in, do your business, get the fuck out.  And clean up after yourselves for God sakes!

If you want to hang out and catch up on all the daily gossip and developing headlines over a lingering bowel movement, stay the fuck home and do it in the comforts of your own bathroom as the rest of us simply want to take a shit.

  1. Thou shalt conduct thyneself respectfully in all locker politics, both pre and post shower.

There are only two parties in the locker room: the Occupier of said space and the Desirer of it. The property of these two men is often in adjacent lockers. Once the Occupier becomes aware of the Desirer, he must make a good faith effort to step aside. Depending on what stage he is in, this might mean continuing with an increased clip or, and this is what often does not happen, grabbing what few remaining items he has left and relocating within the same aisle to allow the Desirer, in turn, to become the Occupier.

As for the Desirer, he must have patience and prudence. If there is no space to access one’s locker, or even if there is but none to perform the act of drying and dressing, he must wait. However, he may adopt the slightly bored but nonetheless recognizably covetous look as to indicate he is waiting.

(Note: There is a 90-second grace period for both sides.)

  1. Thou shalt towel himself off thoroughly and quickly in the shower area.

Toweling off from a shower is perhaps the most important element in locker room etiquette for, from it, follow a host of complications. If one does not dry off one’s feet before one return’s to one’s locker, the trail of water will trigger the impulse of other members to place their bags onto the benches and thereby making the politics between Occupier and Desirer more strained.  Likewise, if one does not properly dry off ones balls, penis and butt area, this might lead to butt-in-face problems later on so drying off must be done quickly and thoroughly in the close proximity of (or even inside) the shower itself prior to accessing the locker room.

  1. Thou shalt not pee in the shower.

This was recognized in my previous Locker Room Commandments (actually, it came up on lists of other commandments as well) but it’s worth reiterating again.  When I see a yellow rivulet heading toward the drain in a communal shower, there is not enough bleach in the world to make me stop screaming.

  1. Thou shalt not whistle, hum or sing in the shower.

I get it, you’re hap-hap-fucking-happy with how your workout went but, still, don’t.  It’s creepy.  You’re not loitering on a street corner somewhere trying to spot your next mark* are you?  No.  So, unless you’re about to break out into some dance with your buddies, cut with the whistling bullshit will ya?

  1. Thou shalt not make unnecessary noises whilst showering.

Unless they are auditioning for an Oil of Olay commercial, no one needs to make all those moaning and groaning noises.  Sure it feels good, we get it.  But they don’t also need to make with the “ooo’s” and “ahhh’s” …that shit is creepy.

  1. Thou shalt not wear a shower cap.

Seriously, grandma?

  1. Thou shalt not use a bar of soap.

In today’s day and age, there is no need to bring your soap to the shower in bar form; especially given that we’ve all likely seen the same prison films.  Use a shower gel instead, like Axe Body Wash, and never use gels and lotions with less-than-masculine sounding fragrances like ‘Evening Primrose’, ‘Glacial Mist’, or ‘Lilac Explosion’.  If it doesn’t smell like a mix of alcohol and ball sweat, it is likely off limits for your usage.

In the unfortunate circumstance where you have in fact, “dropped the soap”, do not bend over to retrieve it.  Instead perform a quick, protected squat in order to retrieve your item and spare everyone around you that awkward moment.

  1. Thou shalt not insert thyne phallus into any random hole or openings of any sort.

I don’t know what it is about some men, but whenever they see a hole in something they immediate begin to wonder what it’d be like to stick their dick in it.  This type of behavior has no place in the gym, the locker room, and the shower room especially – anywhere actually as this never ends up terribly well for anyone in real life scenarios so leave it for the amateur porn videos, fellas.’

*Unless it’s ‘The Colonel’s Bogie‘ in which case, it is absolutely mandatory that it be completed through to the very end and that everybody join in with you.

My Favorite Workout

Posted: November 26, 2017 in Bike, Swim, Training

I suspect that every triathlete has a favourite arrow in their quiver, a preferred “secret weapon” if you will, when it comes to their off-season training regimen.  Maybe it’s a specific fartlek workout you do once a week to enhance your overall run game, one day being dedicated to hill repeats, maybe a unique set of intervals to do on your trainer every Sunday morning, or maybe you just sign up for yoga classes.  Perhaps it’s a new piece of equipment to spice up ordinary daily workouts.  What it is, these “secret weapons” in our training programs that makes our training programs “unique” and therefore – well, we believe anyway – better…for whatever reason.

These are the workouts we brag about.

Mine just happens to fall on a Saturday.  After my morning breakfast, coffee, poop routine (I call it the “morning triumvirate”), I head off down the Friendship Trail on my bike to the Port Colborne YMCA to complete a long swim, and then I cycle home again afterwards.  Essentially for those of you who like numbers, I cycle 17.6 kilometers to the pool (20.3k if I am feeling energetic and take certain scenic back roads), swim another 3000m-5000m, and then cycle home another 17.6 kilometers.  All winter.

It’s not just any of those specific workouts I do on Saturday which I refer to as my “secret weapon” per se, it’s the entire day.

And it includes soup and beer so, yeah, recognize.

Let me try to explain why I love this day so much.

For starters, I’m guaranteed at least once a week to ride my bike outside instead of on a trainer.  Fuck, Zwift.  Sure, maybe it’s only just up and down the Friendship Trail on the weekends but you know what, that’s nearly two hours of being outside, breathing fresh air and enjoying a peaceful, leisurely spin instead of virtually competing with Lance Armstrong and three dozen other MAMIL’s on a simulated race program in front of your computer monitor.

No, fucking thanks.

Now, don’t get me wrong, these “easy” rides to and from the pool are not necessarily “fun” or “easy”, as often I’m forced to cycle through everything from cold mist and rain (as it was today), to gale force Arctic-like winds and driving, blinding snow.  But regardless of whatever it is that the weather happens to be come Saturday, rest assured I will ride those 17.6 kilometers both ways (and swim)…without fail.

So what is so special about this particular day?  Why is this my special go so “secret weapon”, per se.

  1. Mental hardness

There is nothing so daunting at waking up to see cold rain falling from the sky on a chilly November Saturday and thinking to yourself, “shit, I have to cycle and swim today”.  Instantly your brain begins to craft out clever schemes and elaborate ruses in order to trick you into believing that it’s actually smarter to skip the ride/swim altogether and instead stay home in your jammies nursing a hot cup of Cocoa and a plate of hot pockets.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  But no, you tune out that little bitch voice in your head, cinch up the ól applesack and after the usual morning triumvirate, grab your swim gear, gear up, and get your ass outside to the bike and you start to ride, sissypants.

Fuck, Zwift.

Being indoors is too easy.

I believe it’s that kind of mental discipline to get outdoors regardless of the weather that by proxy, also helps develop a certain mental hardness to endure when the going starts to get tough.  I pride myself on being a tough rider, someone the others can count on to immediately go to the front and work just as soon as the going starts to get difficult or challenging.   On certain days, I will emerge from the pool and have to then cycle home (17.6k) in fresh, foot deep snow which has since accumulated while I have been swimming.  Oh, and it’s probably also going to be in near white out conditions so, yeah, believe me, there’s a masters course being taught on ‘Mental Hardness 101’ right there at that moment.

2. Practice race day nutrition

One of the other perks of this day’s worth of workouts is that because, I’m essentially laying down three workouts on top of one another (the ride out, the swim, and then the ride back again) I need to make sure I stay adequately hydrated and fueled enough that I don’t end up bonking in the middle of fucking nowhere and becoming a frozen late night snack for the coyotes.  Not good.

This starts first thing on Saturday morning come breakfast, and I bring a both a pre- and post- swim snack to keep my energy levels up.  For example, on my rides this afternoon I spent exactly 1200 calories (I can expect to add another 300-400 calories to that once the temperatures drop below zero, the snow starts to seriously fly and I have to switch to my mountain bike), and my swims can burn anywhere from another 500 to 1000 calories on top of that depending on what I’m doing that day (ie. longer distance, or intervals).

That a lot of energy being spent that needs to be replaced.

These types of training days then help me to really begin dialing in on the perfect formula that keeps  me performing optimally and that’s a key thing to know about yourself come race day, believe me.  Good thing then that I’ve been practicing it, tweaking it, and perfecting it for the past five months of weekend riding and swimming.

3.  It’s just better outside

Seriously, fresh air, birds…leaves…squirrels…chipmunks…what have you, that’s still shit tons better than looking at other virtual riders asses in high def, isn’t it?

4.  Strength

I may not be the most “gnarly” of mountain biking dudes, but I do know that my legs are sure as shit more tired after I’ve been riding a mountain bike; more so if I’ve been cycling through snow.  That basically equates to two hours’ worth of cycle-specific strength conditioning, brah.  I essentially use this workout as my sole “long ride” workout in my off-season training program, something I would have typically done on a trainer at the gym or in my basement until my brains were dribbling out my nose from extreme boredom.

5.  Beer and soup

As per custom, my ride home stops at Brimstone Brewing for a bowl of hot soup and a pint or two of fine local craft beer.   Yes, some of you might think of this as being foolishly in instantly replacing all the calories I just finished burning off but, to this I say:  “Bite me”.  Live a little.  Personally, I subscribe to the popular belief among cyclists and long distance endurance athletes (the Germans primarily) that a little beer is good for you after a long or difficult workout.

In fact, it actually aids the entire recovery process (click HERE or HERE).

I know, right?

But not to be outdone, let me also say that that bowl of hot, steaming homemade soup courtesy of CRAVE LOCAL FRESH is the thing that I start fantasizing about each and every time I start to peddle on a brisk Saturday morning or afternoon…particularly on the way home.  Even more so if it’s been snowing.  And if good beer and good soup doesn’t motivate you, then I don’t know what does.

After all, every success needs a little reward.

That Voodoo That I Do

Posted: November 10, 2017 in Equipment, Gym, Injuries and Owies
Tags:

And so it begins – the official off-season training program.

In truth, it actually started a while ago but I have begun to get myself back into a daily/weekly routine enabling me to cover all my swimming, biking, running and strength-building bases and already, these workouts comprise approximately 12-15 hours of my week.

I know, I know…I’m bat shit crazy but I’m owning it.

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

One of main priorities right now is to repair the badly atrophied muscles in my legs following my Iron Disaster this past June; my right leg specifically.  To that regard, I have added a new toy to my daily strength-building program – be it core at home in my basement or with the weights at the gym – the Voodoo Band (or “Voodoo Floss”).

voodo

And no, sadly, a “Voodoo Band” is not the name of some hip and rocking swing band.

Essentially, a Voodoo Band is an essential tool that, really, should be a staple tool in the gym bags of every athlete looking to improve range, restore joint mechanics, or unglue matted down or previously injured tissue.

Or so the advertising websites tell me, anyway.

What is really is, is a thick stretchy compression band that one can wrap around their limb (in my case, the muscles of my right thigh and Iliotibial band area) to allow the re-perfusing of tissues that have become stiff or gone cold after injury, and by compressing swelling out of tissues and joints.  Because the Voodoo Band can be used while actually performing the movement the athlete is trying to change, its effect on sliding surface and restoration and tissue mobilization is (apparently) unmatched.

I was first introduced to the Voodoo band on one of my visits to Legacy Health & Performance when Dr. Burr pulled one out during one our sessions.  My first instinct was to cower in the corner like a whipped puppy seeing as how the band – at first glance – kind of resembles something a headmaster might use to discipline an errant student.  Likewise, I’m pretty sure I saw this thing in a fetish video once at a Stag party years ago.

Either way, I was not exactly looking forward to it.

Thankfully, Dr. Burr started to wrap only the muscles of my right leg in it before asking me to perform a series of movements that, prior to this moment, had ached whenever I performed this same movement.  And low and behold, the pain had almost subsided entirely once wrapped in this thick rubber band.

Okay, that’s cool.

Had someone told me about the benefits of the Voodoo Band without my actually having tried it first, I would have assumed that naming it “Voodoo” was just a great marketing ploy to entice lay-people like myself into purchasing one and trying it out but, hey, there is definitely something to this bad ass looking stretchy thing.  Not long afterwards, I saw the band mentioned again in a book (also recommended by Dr. Burr) I had started to read called ‘Ready to Run: Unlocking Your Potential to Run Naturally’ by Dr. Kelly Starrett.  In fact, there’s a whole section dedicated to it.

If you believe Starrett, the Voodoo Band is the be all and end all of helping to cure what ails ya, runner-style.

And you know what?

I do believe him.

This Dr. Starrett fella sure doesn’t look like your typical emaciated, skinny-ass, sleek, greyhound looking Kenyan marathoner.  No, sir!  He’s a large, burly, ripped muscle guy with tattoos.  The kind of tattoos that mean “watch out, motherfucker!”  and not “hey, let me read you some poems about my vegan bicycle”.  Upon first glance, you might better picture him as the kind of person you’d expect to murder you while quietly humming to himself as opposed to out running endless hill repeats in the back country.  In other words, if this guy can run regularly and naturally, and without injury, then there might just be something to this whole Voodoo thingee.

What have I got to lose?

According to Starrett (and Dr. Burr), the Voodoo band is an instrumental tool in restoring the sliding surface between the layers of fascia, creating a omnipotent shearing effect that unglues those sticky sliding surfaces, helps to restore range of motion, floods the affected area with nutrient-rich blood, and helping to reduce swelling while reviving the joint.

Sounds totally boffo, right?

But what’s all that mean?

Well, beneath the skin there are two thick “layers” of fascia. The layer associated with the skin is the Superficial Fascial Membrane. There is another layer which is very closely associated with muscle and skeleton, called the Deep Fascial Membrane. The deeper layer is not simply a “wrap” around muscles and soft tissues, but is also integrated within these structures to pass force and information in every direction.

The superficial fascia is attached to the dermis via “skin ligaments”, called the Retinaculum Cutis Superficialis (RCS). The superficial fascia is attached to the deep fascia via more soft tissue bridges, call the Retinaculum Cutis Profundus (RCP).

Still with me?

Fascial layers are densely populated with all sorts of receptors, most notably mechanoreceptors. In case you didn’t catch that, this means that fascia is like a loud-speaker to the brain, saying “Hey, something is moving down here in your less intelligent tissues. Howzabout you get involved, all up in here?”.  Stack that with the fact that joint capsules (previously thought to be our main source of proprioception) are considered to provide strong feedback only during end range stretch/compression, I think we can safely assume that fascia is a key component in neurological feedback loops, especially related to movement.

So, how does this apply to the Voodoo Band/Floss?

It’s simple really.

voodoo-flossThe strong elastic compression will quickly alter fascia’s relation to all other aspects of the neuromusculoskeletal system when you move with it on.  It would likely take some tension out of certain areas of the fascia, shifting it to other areas via strong intra-sling/intra-layer tension redistribution and inter-layer shear.  Yeah, it’s all about the tensegrity, baby.

So what does this mean now?

Basically, it can massively alter neural input by making a quick change in the mechanical transmission of the fascial system (and its many mechanoreceptors) when moving underneath some strong compression and “stretchy-pulley forces”.

Yes, that’s the technical term.

What’s the ultimate take-away here:  looking at the Voodoo Band simply as a compression mechanism is quite simplistic, since the vast majority of users will wrap themselves up and move. 

Even simpler put:

Compression + Tension + Movement = Fibrosis release.

So wrap myself up and move I will.

Through a whole host of movements actually; squatting, lunging, and stretching specifically.  And here’s the important part, it feels good – during and after.  In a few short weeks I have noticed a significant improvement in all my former “ouchie places” and the power I once had is now beginning to restore itself and this pleases me.

And even when the pain and discomfort is no longer prevalent or a problem, I’m still planning to keep with the Voodoo Band during my strength routines as a pervasive action in order to stave off future injuries and that definitely can’t be a bad thing.

Oh, and hey, I also figure walking around the gym or at home with this bad ass thing wrapped around me isn’t exactly going to damage my street cred any as a total shit-kicker either, could it?

(Or so I keep telling myself anyway)

2017: What I Learned

Posted: November 4, 2017 in In Transition
Tags: , ,

My competitive season is all over.  Actually, in truth, it was over a long time ago but it hasn’t been until now that I’ve sat down to reflect on it all.  What I do know for certain is that there were certainly a lot of big successes, as well as a lot of even bigger failures and now is probably the time I should try to make some sense of it all regarding what I learned before I try to get back into any disciplined and structured training program.

This is no easy task I assure you, considering that I started the year injured (click HERE) and, of course, there was the whole ultimate bullshit enchilada that went down this past June (click HERE).  But having said that, there were definitely successes in these setbacks and I feel it’s important to know what they are so a) hopefully, I don’t repeat them again, or b) if they do happen, I will know how to deal with the situation.  This information is essential as far as I’m concerned if I’m going to continue growing as an athlete and, really, as a person.

First off, let’s just get it out there.  I haven’t competed in a triathlon – of any distance – in two years.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I have in any way not done anything.  In fact, I have trained very hard at being Ironman ready for two years, but I just haven’t been successful at actually being able to test this fitness on the field of battle, per se.  That’s right, for two years I have trained up to 20 hours a week and endured all the pavement pounding, the wear and tear, the mental and physical fatigue and what have you, for TWO-FUCKING-YEARS.

You could say that in the past two years I have become somewhat of an authority on how to train for an Ironman without actually having to race one.

Not that I’m bragging, mind you.

Sure, one year the event was cancelled last minute (click HERE) and the next, well, I ended up running my body over an industrial cheese grater seven days from the big event but, still, it’s frustrating.  But I’m choosing here to look at the positives and use it to fuel me into the 2018 season.

So what did I learn?

  1. Less is more

Especially in 2017, I trained actually less hours than I have previously and ended up in probably the best shape I have been in since Ironman Wales.  Sure, I still had some long days but those didn’t really come until just over a month out from my “Go date” (July 8th).  Of course, I had a lot of help thanks to an amazing coach and a great support team but previously, I would be running and spinning ridiculous mileage by the time the New Year rolled over and would maintain that right up until my taper.  I was more often than not exhausted, fatigued, grumpy, and not loving the process.

This was though was the year that I forgot about distance and time and, instead, focused on quality and form.  In other words, I trained smarter.  Each session had a point, a focus and a goal and none of those were time or distance related.  Over the winter months, I was only cycling one hour sessions twice a week and then riding my mountain bike on the weekend to and from the pool.  I ran only three times a week and the same with swimming.

During this indoor period, I focused on anaerobic and strength conditioning on all my swim, bike and run workouts, as well as improving my overall mental toughness; things that would serve me well come April when I began to transition outside and into my longer, suckier training sessions.  Instead of saying I swam for two hours, or ran 25 kilometers, I would say that I swam, biked or ran until I had achieved my intended goal for that workout – whatever that was at the time.

That’s a huge paradigm shift in thinking for someone who was used to measuring their success in kilometers or hours.  However, success is not measured in time or distance, it is measured in your ability to achieve the focus or goal of the workout.

Therefore, he (or she) who accomplishes the goal most often on a regular basis- wins.

  1. Core

This is likely the smartest thing I did all year.  In lieu of being sidelined from my running in January, I embarked on a 28 Day Challenge, which ended being stretched out to 100 days.  In doing so, I immediately noticed that I was swimming, biking and running (once I started) significantly better because my overall core strength had improved drastically.

Essentially, any forward momentum starts and ends in the core and the stronger my core, the longer it could hold its form while going forward be it swimming, biking or running, meaning the longer I continue with unnecessary wasted effort.  This means longer hours, longer distances, with less wear and tear.

How awesome is that?

This realization is pretty much the foundation that I preach to anyone and everyone who will listen these days.

Basically, do your core workout EVERY day – without fail.

  1. Learn the difference between “Fitness” and “Training”

Yes, there is a difference.

A big one.

Largely this discrepancy occurs now thanks to Garmin and other workout tracking applications that ask you to classify your activity under one of these two banners, or something entirely difference.  Usually, the weekly workouts I do will fall under one of these two main categories.  Previously, I would classify everything I did as “training” since it was part of my weekly plan, and I believe that most triathletes make this same assumption.  However, I have now come to recognize that the two are not the same thing, like, at all; apples and oranges actually.

There are things you do for the purpose of being fun, active and being involved in a healthy lifestyle (fitness) and then there are things you do to best simulate the conditions you can expect come race day (training).  While the two are definitely symbiotic of one another, not being able to distinguish the difference between the two can be completely counter-productive to your training program.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that my inability to know the difference between the two is what led me to my first injury this past January.

First, however, let’s discuss the difference.

“Fitness” workouts are the things you do to maintain your physical and aerobic abilities, as well as burn some calories.  Things such as yoga, core, anything regarded as “recovery” or “easy”, and maybe weights.  The aim and focus here is to take things easy, and just enjoy the process and not psyche yourself out that you didn’t go hard enough or long enough and therefore the workout didn’t accomplish anything, or it was a failure all together.

Total bullshit.

“Training” workouts simulate race day conditions, be it anaerobic capacity, muscular endurance, etc.  They are definitely not the workouts you look forward to but definitely they make you better at coping with the physical and mental stresses you can expect to endure on race day.

Here’s an example:  my typical Saturday workout will see me riding out to the local Port Colbourne pool 20 kilometers away – fitness.  When I get there, I will complete a structured long swim of 3000-5000mtraining.  Afterwards, I ride home again – fitness.

So why is this difference important?

Well, the main goal of the day is to complete my long swim that simulates race day conditions.  The rides out and back (be it on my classic steel or mountain bike) are simply for fun and all at an “easy-does-it” pace.  Consider it my warm-up and warn-down if you will.  Having said all that, anyone who has ever ridden 20 kilometers in -20° weather through snow will immediately know that this it is not necessarily “easy-does-it”.  So, yes, there is something beneficial to be gained like bonus strength conditioning in the legs and an immediate development of one’s mental toughness of riding in less than ideal conditions.  But it was not the immediate focus of the day; it was an accompaniment.  Not everything needs to be balls-to-the-wall.  In this case, it was just a bonus to be out and moving the legs, but it was not necessarily “training”.

Adopting the mindset that everything is “training”, inevitably leads one to think that everything has to be hard, long and/or difficult and that will also inevitably lead one to needlessly over-taxing the body and one’s stress (Cortisol) levels, and injury will inevitably be the result.  Take my word for it.  So learn to accept that some things are for fitness only and don’t necessarily have to be performed at 100%.  For anything less that race day simulation, just enjoy the experience, give yourself some credit for simply doing it, and give your body and brain a break.

In actuality, all my bike riding since mid-August when I finally returned to riding have been done on my steel bike at an easy pace – and I love it.  LOVE.  IT.

  1. The Double Run

This was a new tactic I employed this year.  When my coach first introduced this into my training program come May I think I had an immediate heart attack.

You mean, you want me to run twice…in a single day?

Excuse me?

Surely you jest.

But she wasn’t kidding.

The goal here was to a) train the legs to perform fatigued, and b) get in some added mileage on the day while minimizing your chances of getting injured.

The premise goes like this:  head out early in the day for a long run; long being the length of time you can hold your ideal race pace.  Once your body begins to shut down and your pace goes to shit, call the workout off.  On some days this will be either longer or shorter than the previous week but distance isn’t necessarily the focus here.  Later in the day, once you have recovered head out a second time and do a second, shorter run, again at pace and again until your form collapses.  This process begins to build muscle memory (and the necessary strength conditioning) on how to hold your form while fatigued and, eventually, those second runs begin to feel better than the initial long run in the morning.

Word.

In a few short weeks, I went from running 15-20 kilometers in the morning with another 2-3 kilometers in the evening, to running 25 kilometers in the morning and another 10 kilometers later on for a larger daily mileage and – here’s the thing – the second run even felt good.

Imagine that!

Was it fun in the beginning?  Fuck no.  But after the initial shock of the first 2-3 weeks wore off, those double runs begin to feel – dare I say it – awesome.  And that translated to immediate confidence that I could manage the entire marathon at the end of the day without having to needlessly suffer.

  1. Mental toughness – it’ a thing

I’ve preached about mental toughness before (click HERE) so if you’re still not doing it, well, that’s your loss.  You need to train your brain to cope with the stress the same way you train your body.

All those motivational videos you see on YouTube will likely not be of any use out on the road, or during your event.  Instead, you should have a mental strategy of what provides you mental strength in the moment that you have already tested in battle (ie. your daily workouts) that you can then draw on when the shit begins to hit the fan.

The last thing you want going through your head at the end of the day is how much something sucks. There is nothing productive in that.

  1. Get in the pool.

Now.  Go do it.

You can pound out another long run (if that’s your thing) or spin for four hours (because it’s warm and convenient) and deal with the wear and tear afterwards, or you can wake up early, drag your butt in the pool to develop your form and technique (because it’s  hard), and reap the low-impact cardio and strength benefits by learning how to get out of the water feeling good, strong and confident.

Remember, if you don’t get out of the water – you never get to the bike, the run or the rest of the race.

Period.

  1. Shit happens.

More than anything, this was my single most learning opportunity this year.

I fractured my hand seven days from my Ironman.  I was in the best shape of my life and in the blink of an eye, it was over.  My realization now though now that the frustration and disappointment was worn off is that I had a great plan, a great coach and, ultimately, a recipe that works.

To quote from a cheesy Rocky film, “life will beat you down and keep you there.  It’s about taking the punch and keep moving forward”, and that’s what I’m trying doing baby.

I will rise again.  I will tackle this Ironman again sooner than later.  I will persevere.

God willing, of course.