When I began this blog I had three goals in mind; increase strength, become fitter and gain some muscle. I started with a program that combined strength and conditioning but had strength as the main focus. During this first year I got stronger, slightly increased my fitness and gained five pounds of muscle. In March I switched to a different program that combined strength and conditioning but this one had conditioning as the main focus. The reason for this was I wanted to put up a good score on Murph in May. Mission accomplished as I did better than expected. I intended to then switch to more of a bulking program over the summer to gain some muscle. But I was on such a high from the score I received on Murph that I continued doing what I was doing.
Recently I decided I was ready to change things up a bit. But I was undecided on how to go about it. Due to my physical limitations; knees, shoulder and lower back I was wondering if it was time to play it a little safer. As I explored that option I found it to be boring and I wasn’t ready for that. I enjoy varying my workouts by type of exercise and intensity. I didn’t want that to end. After looking at different options I decided to program my own workouts. What a novel concept!
I decided to use the following weekly format that I can best describe as my version of Crossfit or functional fitness or whatever term you want to use:
- Monday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
- Tuesday – body-weight only circuit done at high intensity.
- Wednesday – explosive strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
- Thursday – some type of interval or circuit using the airdyne.
- Friday – strength training followed by a short intense circuit.
So far I have found myself re-energized by being able to follow a program that is tailored to what I need and what I enjoy. I am able to have a good structure while providing variety in the circuits I use. Training is no longer stale and I look forward to training each day. I once again have a clear training direction.
Landmine exercises are typically done by placing one end of a barbell on the floor (typically in a corner of the room) or into a landmine base attachment. I had been interested in trying out some landmine exercises in the garage gym for a while now but kept running into different problems.
- Cost – A landmine base that does not attach to a power rack can cost anywhere from $60 to over $200. Power rack versions can be purchased for around $25 but I do not have a power rack so this wouldn’t work for me. There are also versions which can be inserted into a stack of weight plates on the floor. But I do not have enough plates to make this work for me.
- Space – You can simply place one end of the barbell on the floor in the corner of your room. However, since my garage is used for storage as well as my gym, this would not work for me either.
My solution was to make my own landmine base. I scrounged around and found a piece of particle board and an old 2 x 8. I even had the screws to put it together so my cost was $0.
So far it works great. I put a dumbbell or other weight on the back to keep it from moving and am able to do any landmine exercises I want anywhere in the garage. So far I have been doing front squats and one arm presses with it, but I plan on adding more landmine exercises to my fitness journey in the future.
I enjoy a good bargain and I also enjoy do it yourself projects. That has also applied to my fitness equipment. Most of my equipment has been purchased used and some of it I have made myself. I am going to discuss one of those home made items today and plan on featuring others items on this blog in the future.
The first item I am going to discuss (as you can tell by the title) is the T-Handle. This item provides you with an adjustable “kettle-bell” for swings. It is fairly inexpensive to put together and extremely easy. I was fortunate to get the weights for free so that also helps with the cost. As I was driving down the road one day I noticed someone putting out a large amount of items with a free sign at the end of their driveway. Some of those items were old plastic cement filled weights with three barbells and two dumbbell handles. I stopped and grabbed them all.
The T-Handle is made from 3/4 inch black pipe and should cost you around $20 or so to make. Below is a list of the parts needed:
- 1 3/4 floor flange
- 1 3/4 T
- 1 3/4 12″ long pipe nipple
- 2 3/4 3 or 3 1/2 pipe nipples
- These are for the handles. If you have bigger hands you may want to consider 4″.
- Tape for the handles
- Clamp to keep the weights from moving. I don’t have one in the picture below but I have used clamps in the past until mine broke. With the weights I am using they fit fairly tight and don’t move much.
It is important to make sure that each fitting is tight each time you use this. I also would caution that the T-Handle is not a replacement for all kettle-bell exercises; only the two handed swing. It is a great finisher at the end of a strength training workout and an excellent conditioning exercise.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Stretch! Stretching is a part of my fitness that I have never done consistently. I just rarely took the time to do it. Oh, I might stretch out after a workout for a minute or two. And that wasn’t per body part. Nope, that was for my entire body. But when you’re young, recover quickly and are moderately flexible stretching just isn’t on your mind much.
As I’ve progressed through my forties I have discovered that I am becoming less and less flexible. My mobility is decreasing and I am having more lower back pain. I imagine that this is due to not only the aging issue but also the fact that I have been spending most of my work life seated at a desk. These symptoms increased drastically this past year as I did more low rep weight training. In fact, my back pain and lack of mobility has at times been somewhat debilitating. I recently decided to attempt to combat these issues by not only increasing the amount of time I spend stretching but also the frequency.
Each morning before I exercise I run through a series of dynamic stretches to prepare my body for the workout. Dynamic stretches are different from traditional static stretches. In static stretching you would hold the stretch for a period of time. An example of this type of stretching would be bending over and touching your toes. Static stretching done as a warm up before exercising can actually lead to strained or even torn muscles. This is due to the muscle loosening and having more difficulty springing back to normal quickly as would be necessary when performing strength training or running. Dynamic stretches are movements which not only warm up your muscles and joints, but allow you to gently stretch your muscles without overstretching. Examples of this are neck, shoulder and torso circles, squats, leg swings, ankle rotations etc.. After my workout is complete I will take a few minutes to stretch out the muscles I just worked using more traditional static stretches.
I will usually try to take a few minutes each morning and again in the afternoon at work to perform a combination of dynamic and static stretching. I find that after sitting for a couple of hours I can feel my muscles tightening up. Stretching throughout the day helps me to stay loose, wake up a bit and regain focus.
Increasing my stretching has helped me tremendously. I have noticed a reduction in my back pain and muscle soreness. It also has helped my overall mobility and seems to be speeding up my recovery time.