Martial Arts, Fitness and Bonding

A few years ago one of my sons went to a birthday party at a local Taekwondo school.  He had a great time and was interested in giving it a try.  Almost three years later he is still at it and in addition to having a great time he has improved dramatically.

I have been interested in giving a martial art a try for a few  years now and last year for my birthday my wife bought me twelve lessons for Krav Maga.  Krav Maga is a self-defense fighting system developed for the Israeli military and is derived from a combination of techniques sourced from various other martial arts including Aikido, Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, and Karate.  I finally started taking the classes this past February and immediately felt like I was learning valuable skills.

Once the corona virus quarantine hit classes came to an end.  Thankfully the school began offering online classes via Zoom.  This has been a true blessing because my son and I were able to continue our classes.  Not only that but my other sons have been doing the online Krav Maga classes with me during the quarantine.  This has been a great bonding experience for us and given me more chances to help them learn new life lessons.

Due to the expense and time commitment required for the classes I don’t know if I will continue to take them once the quarantine is lifted.  But for now it has been a chance to better understand how to defend myself and my family if I needed to, round out my fitness and bond with my sons.

Changing up my fitness

I have always had a short attention span with my training plans.  A couple of years ago I actually managed to follow a plan for fifteen months.  The first twelve months were focused on strength training and then I placed an emphasis on conditioning for the next three months as I prepped for the Murph Challenge last Memorial Day.  Due to the success I had with the Murph Challenge I continued with the program after Memorial Day throughout the summer.  Last fall I was once again all over the place with my training.  Some of that was due to experimenting with different modalities but some of it was caused by injuries that kept me from being as focused as I wanted to be and caused me to have to work around injuries to my back and shoulders.  As I healed and started to feel better earlier this year I went back to follow the same routine that I had utilized last year to prep for the Murph Challenge.  In spite of seeing results and getting back to a good fitness level I decided a few weeks ago to switch up my training.  There were multiple reasons but one of the biggest was that I had done that program so many times that it was feeling stale to me.  Due to feeling physically as good as I had in a long time the staleness was holding me back and keeping me from getting where I wanted to be and this was proving frustrating.

Being on the new training plan for about three weeks now has been eye opening to me.  I felt that I was in pretty good shape after around three months on a strength and conditioning program that has always put me into my best condition.  Upon switching to this new program I discovered that I was not in as good of shape as I thought.  And this is where I realized that I need to continually challenge myself by switching up my routine and trying new training programs.  Even though for me the proven program was still producing results I don’t feel I was pushing myself as hard as I should have been due to my familiarity with it.  I was only working to my previous capabilities and not pushing myself beyond it.  For me personally my best results come when I have a new program which pushes me and is new and fresh or if I am training for a specific goal with a deadline.

For the first time in my life I am now following a subscription based program.  It has been fun to try new things and to constantly be changing things up.  I have been excited each week to receive the new programming and look forward to seeing the results after I have been with this program for a few months.  Hopefully it will keep me motivated and help me to keep producing results.

 

Dealing with Injuries

While I’ve been training consistently the last few months it seems I have had to deal with one injury after another.  I’ve had issues with my always wonky lower back, hip pain, knee issues and shoulder injuries.  I’m used to dealing with the lower back and knee issues.  This time it was my shoulders, specifically my left shoulder, my good shoulder that caused me to change up how I was working out.

I’m still not sure what I did to it.  I simply started noticing discomfort each time I tried to bench or do pullups.  That discomfort suddenly became agonizing pain.  I was sure I had torn something, probably a rotator cuff.  Fortunately I was able to work around it and keep going.  I rested the shoulder and focused on lower body exercises and conditioning.  Thankfully I am feeling pretty good now and this week have started going all out again.

Intervals

The past few months I have slanted my workouts a bit more towards conditioning.  I have still been doing strength training twice a week, but have included three conditioning workouts a week.  This was done primarily to ready myself for the Memorial Day Murph workout I blogged about last time and was very successful as I beat my goal by over five minutes.

One of my favorite conditioning workouts has become interval training.  Interval training is simply short high intensity periods of exercise alternated with short rest periods.  I have done this type of workout in the past with sprinting.  With my current knee situation I have been advised to reduce or eliminate running from my program by my doctor.  I have greatly reduced my running to just the Murph workout.  I have replaced running with the trusty Schwinn Airdyne I purchased off of Craigslist shortly before my surgery last year.

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Typically I will pedal for either a certain length of time trying to keep a specified RPM or I will go all out for a certain distance.  In between I will continue pedaling at a low RPM of around 50.  As a personal preference I don’t really care for long distance running or biking so this type of training has been ideal for me and a great benefit to my conditioning.

 

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In the example above I included some core work after a slight break from my interval workout.  I enjoy including some core work on my interval days.

Workout Log

For as long as I can remember I have been a huge proponent of having an exercise journal or workout log.  In fact, I still have most of them and from time to time I like to pull some of the old ones out and read through them.  I thought I would outline some of the benefits of keeping a workout log.

  • Goals – This is a great way to create and track your goals.  By examining what you have done in the past you can learn what you need to improve, set new goals and stay on track towards achieving them.
  • Progress – Keeping a journal is a great way to track your progress.
  • Identify weaknesses
  • Identify patterns
  • Motivation – I love to look back at where I’ve been on exercises.  Sometimes if I haven’t done an exercise in a long time I am motivated to get back to where I was in the past and sometimes it is just exciting to see how far you’ve come.

Traditionally I have always just used notebooks to record my workouts.  Recently, my wife bought me an actual workout log to use.  No matter what you use I like to make sure I record the following each day.

  • Date – I record the day, month and year.
  • Time – The time I start the workout and the time I end.
  • Exercises done
  • Sets and reps
  • Notes – It is extremely helpful to record notes on each workout.  I will record if a particular exercise is harder or easier than expect, if I feel I should stay at that weight next time or if I should increase the weight, any injuries, pace of the workout, conditions in the garage gym that day, etc.

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This is definitely not a complete list but just the things that have proven to be important to me in the past.  I believe keeping a workout log is an extremely under-rated and under utilized tool in any trainee’s toolbox.

Murph

When I started this blog one of the goals I set was to complete the Crossfit workout Murph as prescribed.  At that time I had never done the workout but felt it was a good measuring stick for conditioning.  I hoped at that time to be able to complete it in under 45 minutes.

This workout is named after Navy Seal Lieutenant Michael Murphy who died in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005.  He was killed while heroically moving into an exposed area so that he could transmit a call into headquarters to get support for his team.  The workout was one of his favorites and he used to call it Body Armor.

The workout is as follows:

  • 1 mile run
  • 100 pull-ups
  • 200 push-ups
  • 300 squats
  • 1 mile run
  • The pull-ups, push-ups and squats can be partitioned any way you want.
  • The entire workout is done while wearing a 20 lb weighted vest or body armor.

I have not run further than a tenth of a mile in longer than I can remember due to my knee issues.  I use a Schwinn Airdyne in place of running in most of my workouts now. But I woke up yesterday morning determined to do the workout as prescribed and that included the running.  I knew I had to take a slightly slower pace on the run and be very careful with each stride.

Here is a breakdown of how the workout went:

  • My strategy was to do each mile run in around 10 minutes and complete the calisthenics in around 20 minutes.  This would leave me 5 minutes of cushion if I needed it in order to finish in under 45 minutes.
  • 1 mile run – completed in 10 minutes. My knee started bothering me at around half of a mile in and bothered me throughout the workout.
  • I broke down the calisthenics to 20 rounds of 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups and 15 squats.
    • It took me 21 minutes to complete the 20 rounds.
    • The pull-ups were very inconsistent.  I knew they would be as I have never been much better than OK at these.  I have improved lately but the 20 lb vest definitely adds a good bit of difficulty to these and even though I have been training with the vest I wasn’t prepared for the volume.  I did some of the reps strict, some of them kipping and a lot of them with reduced range of motion.
    • The push-ups were my best movement.  Once again, I knew this would be the case.  I have always been pretty good at these and like the pull-ups have been training with the vest.
    • Due to my knee bothering me I struggled with the squats.  This was unexpected as I am pretty strong at body-weight or air squats.  I was able to complete them but wasn’t happy with the depth I was getting.
  • 1 mile run- completed in 11 minutes.  I wasn’t upset with this time as once again, I knew I would be slow in the runs and also anticipated the second run being slower than the first.
  • 42 minutes total.

Overall I was pleased with my performance.  I did not anticipate my knee bothering me like it did.   I had been experimenting with my stride for a while to be able to run without aggravating the knee.  Unfortunately I don’t think I was consistent with my stride and this was probably the culprit.  It needed to be perfect and wasn’t.  For me this workout was about testing my conditioning more than anything else and in that respect I was very pleased.

Takeaways:

  • I need to work harder on my pull-ups.
  • I need to have a more consistent stride while running.
  • I will have to wear a knee brace while doing this next time to give my knee some support.
  • I am pleased with the time and will attempt to have better quality reps when I perform this again over Memorial Day weekend.

 

Lessons Learned #3

Unscheduled rest days happen.  I typically try to follow a Monday through Friday plan for my workouts with Saturday and Sunday as scheduled off days.  This allows me to use Saturday as a makeup day if I should happen to miss a workout during the week.

When you have children, missed workouts can happen for many different reasons.  Lack of sleep due to a child who doesn’t feel well from being sick, having a nightmare or because they just can’t or don’t want to sleep that night.  Sometimes it is difficult to understand why your kid doesn’t want to sleep.  My wife deals with the majority of these nights; especially with our youngest, but I help out as often as I can.

Due to our busy schedule in the evening I am often getting to bed much later than I would like.  This makes it difficult to wake up at 5:00 a.m. to workout.  I have gotten into the bad habit lately of pushing that snooze button and rationalizing with myself that I can still workout if I only stay in bed for 10 more minutes.  Unfortunately I often sleep through the snooze or simply turn off the alarm and roll back over.

Sleep is so important to your recovery in training.  Lack of sleep is probably the leading cause of my missing workouts.  At 46 I cannot burn the candle at both ends the way I used to.  I find that I definitely need more sleep than I used to but I am not getting it.

It is important to recognize when your body needs a day off.  And it is equally as important to take the day off when needed.  Yesterday I woke up feeling tired, with sore muscles and a sore lower back.  I elected to workout anyway.  I pushed through a short workout and struggled mightily through it.  It was not a good workout at all.  I couldn’t match the pace I have been doing lately and the reps were very poor.

When I woke up this morning I felt the same as yesterday; tired, sore muscles and a sore lower back.  I originally planned on pushing through like I did yesterday.  After some internal deliberation I eventually decided to take a mid-week rest day.  I did not want a repeat of yesterday’s workout.   I am hopeful that I will feel better tomorrow and can get back on schedule.