Keep it fresh

I’m a creature of habit. Every week day has a particular dinner and workout, week after week. Mondays, for example, are arms, swimming and a rice bowl. In the gym, I typically do the same exercises. Today I decided that Wednesdays will be “try something new” days at the gym.

For whatever reason, I usually avoid machines and favor free weights and floor work. I don’t know why this is—maybe I just don’t want to adjust them, figure out the right way to use them, or just think I’ll look look funny using them. But no excuses, today I tried some machines that I’ve never used (or at least not that I can remember using). These included rotary upper back, rotary chest, tricep extension and machine curls. What’s great is that some of them worked muscles that I don’t typically work. I know this because they are sore as I’m writing and will likely be even more so in the morning (that’s a good thing, btw).

Another new move I tried was this “bear crunch” that Men’s Health Fitness tweeted earlier this week. If done right, it works a bunch of muscles in one move.

Bear Crunch
Bear Crunch – Works a bunch of muscles at once

Variation is good. It keeps things interesting and keeps your body from getting use to the same old moves. So at least until I get into “in-season” training, Wednesdays will be the day dedicated to variation. It could be something completely new, something I haven’t done in a while or just a twist on something I do routinely. Now if I can only get myself to try new foods…(more on that in a future post).

Side note: Loving my new iPad keyboard case. Makes it easier to blog on the couch.

iPad Keyboard
iPad Keyboard

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Supplements

Recent deaths have been linked to the pre-workout supplement Jack3d (pronounced “jacked”) which contains methylhexanamine, or DMAA. Jack3d is intended to give users more energy, motivation, focus and improved mental state while enabling them to lift more or just go harder. Although DMAA is currently legal to possess in the US, it is ban in some countries as well as the World Anti-Doping Agency. There are conflicting reports on whether or not DMAA is actually safe or not, and I’m certainly not an expert so I’m not going to pass judgement on it.

Jack3d
Jack3d

 

I have not taken Jack3d, but I have used the “fat burner” Oxyelite Pro when it contained DMAA, along with a good amount of caffeine. I took it during the day, not close to workouts, and it did provide a boost of energy and kinda made me feel warmer. I took it as directed and did not have any major side effects. Here are some less controversial supplements I’ve tried and how they worked for me.

Protein, Gatorade etc.
Protein, Gatorade etc.

 

Pre-workout
C4 Extreme & ACG3 – The former I received as a sample from GNC about a year ago and the latter I just tried today. I’m lumping them together because the had similar effects. Most notably they contain caffeine & creatine. Both gave me energy and helped me feel good throughout the workout. They both taste like concentrated Kool-Aid, which isn’t bad. I do have to make sure I don’t take too much (I’m small) otherwise I feel a little lightheaded and dehydrated. Otherwise in the right amounts, they work good for me. That said, I don’t use them often.

Gatorade 01 Pro Prime – This stuff is great prior to long endurance workouts. It has a good amount of carbs (30g – aka energy), which is good for prolong activity. My only complaint is that it’s kind of sugary and can mess with my stomach at times, but if I give enough time between taking it and working out, I’m fine. This is also my pre-race fuel. Otherwise, reserved for continuous endurance training lasting over an hour.

During workout
Gatorade 02 Pro Endurance Formula – Along with water, this is generally all I use while training or competing. I typically drink it more so during longer summer workouts when I’m sweating more and therefore need electrolyte replenishment. Compared to normal Gatorade, this has less sugar (and therefore calories, only 50/8oz serving) but more sodium and potassium. I get it in powder form so I can control the concentration. It’s also cheaper and more environmentally friendly versus buying individual bottles. I had come close to passing out due to dehydration during long summer workouts prior to using this (and just drinking water). Lemon-lime is my favorite flavor.

Water – Yep, plain old water is usually all that’s in my Camelbak, especially this time of year when I’m training at lower intensities and not loosing as many electrolytes through sweat. Your muscles also need water to grow. I try for no less than 8 cups per day—usually much more. Oh, and it should also be noted—no soda in my diet! During the day, it’s generally black coffee or water for me.

Post-workout
In general, protein has helped me increase strength and muscle mass by taking it post-strength workout. You could get just as much protein from the right food, but shakes are convenient. The right amount of protein is essential to build lean muscle. Lack of protein tells your body to store more carbs as fat (it goes into somewhat of a survival mode).

GNC AMP 60 – This is a blend of whey Isolates and hydrolysates. Although it worked fine, I realized that I don’t need 60 grams of protein in a supplement when factoring in the rest of my diet. A sports dietitian also told me I was taking in too much protein which could be stored as fat (I believe her words were “you’re not a body builder.”). Currently, I try for about 1g of protein per pound of body weight—which is still a bit more than she recommended.

GNC  AMP Recovery Protein XR – I started taking this because it had a more appropriate amount of protein for me + carbs for recovery. Then I realized, I didn’t need the extra carbs. After a workout, I’m hungry and typically eat food with carbs anyways.

ON 100% Whey Natural – This is what I currently use. It’s less expensive than the GNC brands, works just as well and has the right amount of protein for me (24g). The vanilla flavor isn’t the greatest, but it’s ok. I also like the fact that there are no artificial flavors or dies. Mix it with 6oz of organic skim milk for a little extra protein (6g) and better taste.  I will continue to buy this for the foreseeable future.

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Music + workout

As I write, the 2013 Grammy Awards are taking place so I felt that music would be an appropriate topic for the night.

I almost never workout music-less. Music is a major factor in my training. The right song can get me going and push me to go faster, power through extra reps or swim more laps. It can even change my mood. I’m not a scientist but I’ve heard that there’s scientific research to back this up. Even cranking up the volume can get your heart rate up.

Thanks to waterproofed iPod shuffles, even swimming with music is possible. I do, however, need to make sure that I do some training without music since many races ban headphones.

Here’s some of my top training tracks at the moment.

I have my bike trainer setup in front of my iMac (connected to good, loud speakers) so I also have something to look at. Here’s my current video playlist (don’t laugh!).

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Why triathlon? Why fitness?

Explain triathlon, or any endurance sport for that matter, to someone who isn’t familiar and they will probably say something like “you do that volunteerily?” Yes, conventional wisdom says pushing your body to its limits is kinda crazy. So why do we crazy people do it?

Health
Probably the most obvious reason for anyone to keep in shape is to be healthy. A recent study found that just 75 minutes of moderate exercise per week can add two years to your life (PLoS Medicine as published in Men’s Health). See also countless studies that find that fit people are less likely to have health issues.

It’s a challenge
With anything in life, if you don’t challenge yourself, you’re likely to become bored, stagnant and depressed. Challenges & goals don’t need to be crazy. In fact, if they aren’t attainable, you’re less likely to achieve them and therefore could be discouraged to challenge yourself in the future. In a race, I take each person in front of me as a challenge—one at a time. I don’t worry about the competitor two spots ahead of me, just the one in front of me. I say to myself, your goal is to pass that one person. And when I do, then the goal changes to pass the next person. This kind of mentality is not only good for athletic competition, but in every day life as well. If you’re an intern, you’re not likely to become CEO and skip everything in between. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t have big goals, just that there needs to be smaller goals along the way. It makes the big goal seem more attainable.

Getting ready to swim. Just prior to the start of the 2012 Cleveland Triathlon
Getting ready to swim. Just prior to the start of the 2012 Cleveland Triathlon.

Stress relief
For me, nothing relieves stress better than an intense workout. If I’m stressed at work, I don’t take it out on my co-workers, friends or family. I take it out at the gym, pool or on the road. It helps distract me from what I’m doing elsewhere and focus on something else for a while. I think part of the reason this works so well for me is that gym time is also off-the-grid time for me. I use to use my iPhone as my iPod but then I just ended up replying to emails and texts in between sets (so life was still with me). My non-connect iPod shuffle was one of the best pieces of gear I’ve purchased in a while (it’s also waterproof so I can swim with it!). It’s also nice to get outside and be with nature every once and a while. I love spending a few minutes just sitting on the beach after a run on a nice day. It’s time to reflect on the workout, what went well, what wasn’t so good and make a mental note for next time.

I feel that this “break from life” actually helps me to be better at my job and life in general. Once I go back to work, I feel refreshed and focused with a clean mental state—opposed to being over-worked, stressed and un-focused.

The view after a run on the beach
The view after a run on the beach.

It’s a drug that makes you feel good
Along with stress relief, a good workout just makes you feel good. According to WebMD, “Endorphins … trigger a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.” They go on to say that “Regular exercise has been proven to reduce stress, ward off anxiety and feelings of depression, boost self-esteme [and] improve sleep.”

Once exercise is a regular part of your life, it’s hard to stop. It’s addictive. A couple years ago I had a minor surgery that prevented me from working out in any capacity for about a week and at full capacity for over a month. That first week, especially, all I wanted to do was get off the couch and do something physical. I felt jittery and on edge. Just like withdraw from an illegal street drug—but this is a good drug!

Confidence
Fit people generally walk a little taller with more “swagger,” as a recent article in Men’s Health points out (partially because they have a stronger core). Being comfortable in your body helps build confidence. Reduced stress and endorphins also contribute to higher confidence.

 

I’m not trying to say that everyone needs to be crazy like triathletes and marathon runners, but if you aren’t active now, try adding a little physical activity to your life.

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Jan 28, 2013 update + spring training plans (maybe)

This time of year I tend to concentrate on building muscle for the coming season because during the season, I only hit the weights once a week. Still swimming a lot and continue to go to Masters Swimming once a week. I really should run and bike more, I’ve been slacking on those areas. The treadmill and bike trainer are just harder to get myself to use vs going outside. Two Saturdays ago the power was out so I had to do a bike trainer workout without the typical music video playlist! It was kinda torture. I also didn’t use my Wahoo Fitness app to save my phone battery so I don’t know how far or fast I went.

View from trainer. Music videos, speed, distance, cadence & hart-rate on iMac.
View from trainer. Music videos, speed, distance, cadence & hart-rate on iMac.

I’ve been thinking of dedicating a week to each sport (swim, bike, run) in April, or so, as spewing conditioning. This isn’t something I read in a magazine or anything, just something I thought of. I’m not totally sure how to go about it properly or if its even a good idea. I figure during each week, I can really concentrate on one sport at a time with the exception of one strength workout each week for maintenance. I plan to also do the weeks in order of a race. I need to put together a training plan for the three weeks. Any thoughts or suggestions?

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