Tag Archive: fitness


Who Are You, Really?

Although the title of this post was inspired by the Mikky Ekko song of the same name, its content was prompted by a recent piece by Mark Rippetoe on T-Nation entitled CrossFit: The Good, Bad and The Ugly. Don’t worry, I won’t be posting my own thoughts here about the pros and cons of CrossFit – not right now, anyway! 🙂 No, this post is about the question of who – or, perhaps more accurately, what – you perceive yourself to be as it pertains to your approach to fitness.

As Rippetoe explains:

Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you’re through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal.

“Exercise is fun today. Well, it may not be fun, but you’ve convinced yourself to do it today because you perceive that the effect you produce today is of benefit to you today. You ‘smashed’ or ‘crushed’ or ‘smoked’ that workout… today. Same as the kids in front of the dumbbell rack at the gym catching an arm pump, the workout was about how it made you feel, good or bad, today.

“In contrast, Training is about the process you undertake to generate a specific result later, maybe much later, the workouts of which are merely the constituents of the process. Training may even involve a light day that you perceive to be a waste of time if you only consider today…

“…Different physical tasks require different physical adaptations; running 26.2 miles is obviously a different task than squatting 700 pounds, and the two efforts require completely different physical adaptations. If a program of physical activity is not designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don’t get to call it training. It is just exercise.”

And here’s the rub, as Rippetoe continues:

“For most people, exercise is perfectly adequate – it’s certainly better than sitting on your ass. For people who perceive themselves as merely housewives, salesmen, or corporate execs, and for most personal training clients… exercise is fine.”

The insinuation, of course, is that training is for those more passionate about their physical condition and athleticism. For those who perceive themselves as something more than just how society sees them in their primary family or career roles, and who have goals they are trying to reach in other endeavors. For those that, when asked “What do you do?”, are just as anxious to talk about their chosen sport as their chosen profession. For those who strive for something beyond mediocrity, beyond the bare minimum of what they “need” to do in order to function in their primary roles, stay healthy, and look good.

I am a husband and a father. I am an executive in a professional services firm. These are indeed my primary and most important responsibilities in life. The only thing I really “need” to accomplish through my fitness routine is to stay slim, toned and healthy. But that is not enough for me. I strive for excellence in all things, including in fitness for its own sake, always looking to transcend the lowest common denominator practices of the mainstream. I am far from successful, but it is the pursuit that is important. Choosing this particular journey means never being content with the status quo.

I perceive myself as something more than a husband, father and business professional. I am a martial artist, a student of Brazilian jiu jitsu. And so I also perceive myself to be an athlete. This may be completely delusional, for I am a rank amateur to be sure, and an aging one on top of that – a “wannabe.” But that’s the crux of the matter: Who do you want to be? I have chosen this pursuit, although there is no requirement that I do so, and I certainly earn no money from it. It is simply an innate desire. So that is just who I am. Really.

I have built some solid momentum over the last couple weeks. After missing a full week of BJJ due to various work and personal commitments (but still hitting the gym a few mornings that week), I was able to go to four classes the week I returned, and five (including a private lesson this morning) the next. With a couple of visits to the gym thrown in the mix, I have had six workouts in each of the past two weeks and, looking back a little further, have actually worked out 15 of the last 18 days. (Note – I generally don’t count a BJJ class or private lesson as a “workout” if it is mostly technical without much sparring; if I throw this morning’s technical private back into the mix, I have actually done “something” workout and/or BJJ related for 16 of the past 18 days).

I know I won’t always be able to keep up this pace. Work, family and other personal/social commitments make it impractical. As much as I advocate “pushing the edge,” it is difficult to sustain such a regimen when it is a part-time endeavor, and sometimes the stress of trying to pack so much into a week can be counterproductive. I also need to be cognizant of the need for recovery time. “Over-training” is a misnomer; unless you are a professional athlete or an Olympian, chances are you are NOT doing enough to over-train. Even 40+ exercise enthusiasts like me can push themselves as hard as their younger counterparts. But “under-recovery” is a more appropriate term for a very real outcome. One thing older athletes do need is more recovery time.

I have been nursing a couple of minor injuries of late, in addition to my perpetual glass shoulders: jammed finger, hyperextended elbow, strained groin. Although it is hard to willingly give up a workout or BJJ class, the decision should always be compared to the longer absence that could result from injuries that become significant because they were not given a chance to heal. All of my current ailments (except my perpetual glass shoulders) seem to be enjoying some improvement, so I’m going to try to keep up the pace. My schedule during the upcoming week won’t be quite as flexible as the last two, but I should still be able to do something most days. Starting the week off with a Monday morning workout is the hardest part, but for me it’s one of the keys to keeping the momentum going.

Just 2.5 pounds shy of a 300 lb deadlift. Not an impressive amount of weight in absolute terms, but it has been a personal target since I started deadlifting – which is only about a year ago, despite years and years of working out prior to that point. 300 lbs wouldn’t be bad considering my bodyweight (just under 155 lbs), although I really need to get to 310 to hit the 2x bodyweight benchmark. In the interest of full disclosure, this is with a trap bar – I moved to this from the straight bar a couple of months ago after a bad shin injury (resulting from box jumps gone wrong, but that’s a blog post for another day). But I have found this to be a safer way of deadlifting anyway, particularly for a guy my age that is not trying to be a competitive power lifter and does not want to be sidelined from BJJ because of a lower back injury. Ironically, I may actually be over 300 lbs already: my calculation of 297.5 lbs conservatively assumes that the trap bar is 45 pounds, although the gym owner claims it is 50; if he’s right, then I’m already over 300. (In case you’re wondering about the odd poundage, it just happens to be the conversion of kilogram-denominated plates loaded onto the bar.)

As for today’s workout…

Recently I’ve been adhering to a couple of adages I picked up on T-Nation. One is “the warmup is the workout,” and the other is “if it’s important, do it every day; if it’s not important, don’t do it at all.” (I wish I could locate the specific post/article on T-Nation where I first saw this, but I can’t. However, at least a portion of the second one is mentioned here.)

My important, every day (well, not actually every day, but every workout) are: pull-ups; kettlebell swings; pushups OR dumbell bench presses; and single-arm landmine 45-degree shoulder presses. The latter two pushing exercises are done with light weight as part of my self-prescribed shoulder rehabilitation process.

So finally, today’s workout:

– Jump rope and dynamic stretching

– 3 sets of single-arm landmine 45-degree shoulder presses (weight too embarrassing to mention – see above!)

– 3 sets of dumbell bench presses (weight too embarrassing to mention – see above!)

– 3 sets of pullups (10, 8, 5)

– 3 sets of kettlebell swings (45 lb)

– Deadlifts: 5 @ 133 lbs, 6 @ 199 lbs, 3 @ 243 lbs, 1 @ 288 lbs, and 1 @ 297.5 lbs

 

It was a cold morning in the box at Transcend / Carousel CrossFit yesterday. Cold AND tired, not a great combination. I went through a longer than usual warmup (light jogging, side stepping, knee pulls and other dynamic stretches, jump rope, etc.) of about a half hour, before putting together the following two circuits:

First circuit, repeated 3x (1 minute rest in between circuits):

– 2 min jump rope

– 15 kettle bell swings (45 lb)

– 100 yard farmers walk (55 lb kettlebells)

– 10 wall ball shots (20 lb medicine ball)

– 5 dead-hang pullups

Second circuit, repeated 3x (1 minute rest in between circuits):

– 500 meter row (pathetic, but I haven’t rowed in a few weeks: 2:03, 2:15, 2:13)

– 15 pushups

– 25 situps (knees to chest, wrapping hands around shins)

As I started the second circuit, a bunch of CrossFitters began their WOD for the CrossFit Open, putting me to shame…