Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Today's workout: Feling leaner.

Monday was fencing: yesterday was lactic chest and shoulders:

Today - intervals and plyometrics.

Clean and Jerk: 115# set of 6, then 5, 4, ... 1. Rested between sets, one minute to start and decreasing to 10 seconds by the end.

"L" hangs: I don't know what else to call these. I hang from a bar and stick my legs straight out and try to hold it as long as I can... which is 30 seconds, then 3 more sets at 15 sec each and 15 sec rest in between. Followed immediately by...

Manly Plank: per Theory to Practice by way of Jeff. Managed 45 sec.

Dumbell Cleans: 4 each side at 60#... then a try each side at 70#. I made it on the right! Finished with more @ 60# but not many.

Heavy Bag: Simulated fight: 3x 3 minute rounds with one minute rest.

I weighed under 147 1/2 before the workout - so I'm looking forward to a good number in final caliper check of 2008.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Put a Lampshade On It!

You might think that writing a work of historical fiction is all about getting the facts right and telling an interesting story around them. I think that's mostly true. But what about when the facts aren't as interesting as you'd like, or the facts are in dispute?

If Miles Davis had been a writer, he might have said, "It's the facts you don't write."

Case in point for me is the problem, first raised by Reader Ray, that the body of Mark might not have been in the place where I have my protagonists find it.

The History of the Coptic church puts the body in the rival Melkite church at that time. Norwich's History of Venice, drawing from European sources, puts it in the Coptic church. Most other authorities are ambiguous, saying only that it came from Alexandria.

My problem is that I want Mark to come from the Coptic church which he founded, and I don't want to confuse the reader by including the Melkites. But I don't want to be wrong either. So what's an author to do?

One tactic is called, "putting a lampshade on it.". That is, to point out within the narrative that I know about the problem. It's a footnote without footnoting.

You can see lampshading in many popular works. An good example would be Jack Bauer making a comment about how he seems to have one really bad day a year. The writers are saying, in effect, "we know this is implausible. Give us a break, and enjoy."

So, Mark stays with the Copts, and I include this exchange:

"I'll go to the church," Buono said, "and speak to the priests myself."

"My dear Buono, I urge you, do not. The situation is too delicate," Claudius warned.

"You just don't want me going without you."

"Yes, because you stand to ruin everything I've worked for! Look, Buono, the body may not even be there. Some say it lies in the Melkite church, all but the head!"

Buono frowned. "Now, you're just trying to complicate matters," he said.

And that's what makes it fiction- and hopefully a good read.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Train to Fight - But Don't Fight, Kids... OK?

It's the dirty secret of Evolutionary Fitness: our ancestors were lean because they were killing machines.

When we talk about the functional roots of EF, we usually speak in terms of man versus nature. Food is scarce, mammoths are... mammoth, etc. But seriously, when was the last time nature gave humans our primary survival challenge? Even Neandertal had tools and weapons. The fishook and the deadfall trap don't require a barrel chest and hulking shoulders. Neither does running a herd of wildebeasts into a box canyon.

But KEEPING your food when Ogg wants to take it- THAT is a survival challenge.

Does it make sense? Modern subsistence hunters are lean, but not powerfully built compared to what we know the human body is capable of. The reason is, they don't kill each other so much anymore.

Now, what does this mean for your workout? It means do what a lot of us do already: train like a fighter. Look at the body of a man who fights for a living sometime!

Hand to Hand:
Absolutely requires total body strength, and powerful arms. Ogg is sitting on your chest? Ogg is behind you, choking? Now you know why your EF-optimized muscles can bench-press or jump-squat your bodyweight.

Striking means explosive power, of course, and anyone who knows how to punch knows that the motion involves the whole body.

AND you need strong, tight abs: for both offense and defense.

Workouts: full-body strength or explosive motion (Olympic lifts, all presses, deadlifts, squats, kettlebell lifts and turns, heavy bag)

Weapons, Melee:
The club is the classic example, but don't forget the spear and the long stick. The quicker you move and the heavier the weapon is, the more damage you'll do.

And don't forget the legs! The tactical advantage in a fight with weapons belongs to the fighter who controls the distance. Fencers lunge, spearmen jump-thrust, etc.

Workouts: kettlebells! and of course actually working with weapons, but that's more for the dojo and the salle d'armes than the gym. For explosive leg movement, snatches, cleans, etc.

Weapons, Ranged:
Well, throwing rocks comes to mind doesn't it? I know a lot less about this than I do the hand-to-hand arts, but one notices that Field events like shotput, javelin and discus are all weapons styles. I'd look at what those guys do to train.

Workouts: shooting baskets, throwing baseballs, medicine ball drills, kettlebell toss if you have the outdoors to work with.

I'm hoping for some good discussion on this one - and to incorporate more of the melee weapons stuff into my workouts.

Jeff, wanna wrestle sometime? ;^)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Recovery or confusion?

I was leaving the locker room yesterday as Jeff was coming in. We had a brief discussion about workout style: Jeff was wondering whether he should continue doing full body workouts or do the alternate day thing (legs/shoulders one day, chest/back another, for example)

The thing is, the reason to do an alternate day style workout is that you overstress the muscles and they need time to recover. In my experience, this is the only way to build strength beyond a certain point: that sort of training is what got my bench from a 160# plateau to 185# in a couple of months.

Jeff's point was that going into a fatigue condition one day, though, would prevent him from doing a power workout the next day: for example if he did squats and deadlifts to failure he might get to do sprints for a while. I wondered if having that sort of strategy would just create good muscle confusion.

I tend to alternate between targeting strength and targeting power, myself: do a heavy lift to fatigue one day, and the next do all plyometrics. For example:

Yesterday's workout :

Bench Press: pyramid to 185# followed by alactics at 165#
Dumbell Snatch: one-hand snatch, ramping to 4x65# (new best)
Incline Negative Situps: 30# kettlebells each hand, 2x5 slow.
Kettlebell swings to vertical: decending sets from 8 reps, 30#.
Lat Pulls alternating with Incline Dumbells: 175# and 55# respectively, 3 sets to failure

Today's workout (planned):

Burpees: maybe will go for 20! ... will see how long that takes.
Box jumps: single leg and double leg with 30# barbell on my back. 2 minutes on, one off, 3 sets.
Heavy bag: 3 rounds, 3 minutes on / 1 minute off
In between all this: track sprints, one lap slow and one lap fast

We'll see how I do... my whole body is a good sore from yesterday's big weights. Everything I have planned for today is about speed and power, not strength.

UPDATE: the workout ended up being,
1 lap sprint warmup
20! burpees with at most 45 seconds rest between sets (210 burpees total)
3x 3 minutes heavy bag with 1 minute rest between. Did not have speed for triple jabs coming off the burpees. Good right cross today.
30# weighted box jumps: 30 seconds on / 20 off / 20 on /10 off/10 on / 5 off / 5 on
(two minutes? What was I thinking!)
3x 1 lap sprints

Actually I feel pretty good. Enjoying a bowl of seafood gumbo from the cafeteria, with lots of tabasco.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Meatheads in the Mud

It's been a while since I had a good post on the neighbors. Emjay and I planted a line of trees between our house and theirs over the summer and the problems seemed to disappear. Last week before Thanksgiving we could hear a car running hard next door around dinnertime. Someone was trying to park a VW on the backyard lawn. We could tell from the sound that in the rain the lawn had become the consistency of pumpkin bisque, and only a complete moron would continue spinning the wheels.

The engine revved for another hour as we finished dinner and put the kids to bed.

I decided the right thing to do would be to go over and offer help. Maybe I could show them how to properly "rock" a car out of a hole. I might even offer to help push.

But I got there and saw that it was hopeless. The left front wheel was a quarter in, the right sunk to the centerline.

"You have to stop," I said, "You're just digging further in."

"Yeah, I know," Ted said, "My brother's coming after he finishes working out. He has a truck."

I spent a moment to imagine what sort of workout the brother was finishing. Probably a few sets of bench presses at low weight, and then about a dozen sets of bicep curls. Steryotyping? maybe. Then the mook got back in the car with his cocked ballcap, cellphone to his ear in one hand, and spun his wheels some more.

We saw the aftermath the next morning. Their backyard looks like Ypres the morning after, minus the mustard-gas. Remnants of a broken garden hose, apparently used as a tow cable. A line of cars, for once actually parked in the driveway.

At least, that's what I think I saw. It's hard to tell with a line of trees in the way.