Category Archives : Fitness Blog


The Life Lottery

Note: This was written Tuesday. 

Field Trips

Well, I got lost this morning for awhile. I was on my way over to pick up my housemate from the mechanic, and I took a wrong turn, and went on adventure. I guess I still have a bit to learn about Phoenix. We’ve been sitting in a coffee shop for a few hours now, and it’s probably getting on towards done; I figured it might be time to throw together today’s blog.

Work Life

Work life is good right now. I’m the good kind of busy, and I’m loving it. I’m riding that particular high that comes from already having enough money to pay rent next month. A distinct and lovely lack of stress–it’s sort of like turning off a vacuum cleaner; the world is suddenly so quiet and peaceful. I hadn’t even realized someone had been standing on my chest the last couple months, but, hey, I  can breathe.

The first savings goal is to acquire enough to pay for a decent pair of boots.

Applying for Trail Permits

Matt and I applied for trail permits today.

It’s actually a really involved process. There’s a lottery for the Whitney Permit. We need to get that, and once we have that, we can apply for the wilderness sections of the trail. There’s an element of luck involved in just having a window to set the record.

The only choice, though, is full steam ahead, because I need to be ready to go long before I know whether or not I actually will.

Training for Record Attempt

This is going places. I’ve been working out steadily, I’ve found a place to write with a bar setup, so I can work standing. This is important. Feet need to get used to the idea of supporting your body for hours and hours at time.

I’ve not used them yet, but I’ve bought two fifty pound bags of gravel. They’re going to go in my backpack. I’m going to be going on regular walks, first with the fifty, then the hundred, while continuing to train at the gym. Eventually, the stair-climbing in the gym will be combined with the pack.

Right now, I’m doing sessions of half an hour on the stair climber, at a pace that takes me about 2.5 miles, then another couple on the treadmill, and a few bodyweight exercises three times a week. The other days are either rest or weight training days.

I’ve been doing research, and I see I need to do step-down exercises as well. The trick is to shake things up, as well. As the training ramps up, I’ll also be climbing actual mountains in the area more and more often, because that’s how you really get in shape for climbing mountains: climbing mountains.

Already Happy

I’m already really happy with the training. This regimen encompasses a lot more cardio than my usual workouts, and I’ve already noticed a lot more muscle definition, which is pretty cool, but this isn’t about looking fit–this is about endurance. Not even running endurance, but plodding endurance.

I will need to be able to carry 50-60 pounds at a fast walking pace for eighteen hours, several days in a row. That’s going to take some work.

The real key is sticking with it. I can walk fast enough, I can carry the weight, I just need to get to the point where I can manage both at the same time, and that’s just an incremental affair. Like most things in life, it’s not a training montage, it’s constant and continual work until the goal is reached.


The John Muir Record Attempt 1

The Overview

So I have a good friend who wants to set a record. The record he wants to set is actually the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), but we’ve decided to start with the John Muir Trail. We’ve done the math, done the research, and we think we can do it. We’d be making the attempt (if we win the lottery for it) this summer.

The John Muir Trail (which I’ve already hiked part of) runs from Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the Lower 48, through the Sierras, including King’s Canyon and Sequoia, and into Yosemite. It’s actual part of the PCT, so it will be a good test run, no matter what happens.

 

 

You can find out more about both trails here.

 

The Hike

This isn’t an easy hike. It’s 211-ish miles through altitudes as high as 14,505′. And we need to do it in less than 78 hours. This is back country, wilderness .  .  . the trail is clearly marked, but you share it with deer and bears. That sort of place.

It’s also a hike through the parts of the country that inspired the national park system. Some of the most beautiful country on the planet. It’s a place out of dreams.

 

The Campaign

We are planning to go all the way with this record attempt. We’ll be filming it; Matt’s even got a camera drone. We’re going on an adventure, and we want you to come along for the ride. We’re also planning on grabbing as wide an audience as we can. We’re planning on a social media campaign, maybe some crowdfunding, definitely sponsors if we can get some.

 

The Training

Here’s the truth: We should have been training for this all year. Instead we’ve go six months. I think we can do it, but that means we’re going to be training hard. I’ve been hitting the gym almost daily since the end of January. I’m even doing cardio.

I hate cardio.

But I’m doing cardio, because in six months I’ll need pistons for legs and gas tanks where my guts go. I can already keep up the pace we need to keep up easily, I just need to be able to do it with a 50-100 pound pack above the treeline for 70-something hours.

We’re also, starting a month before our hike, going to switch to the Uberman sleep schedule.

 

What You Can Expect

Well, the journey starts here and now, not six months from. We don’t know for sure if we’ll be able to go, or when, yet, because there’s a lottery system for selecting backcountry permits. Still, we need to start training last year, so that’s going to be happening. We’ll be logging progress, looking at the things we need to do, and so on.

I’ll be saving up for a decent pair of boots.

Our thinking is that, worst case, we have to settle for being in awesome shape and walking through one of the most beautiful places on the planet. I think we’ll do a bit more than that, though.

 

More to come,

Connor Rickett

 


Better Than Yesterday: Fitness Week 4 1

Wow, so this is the end of the first month of nearly daily gym visits! Counting the double visit days, I went to the gym 25-28 days this past month, and believe me, I felt like it at times. There’s going to be a minor break coming up next week, while I’m back in Las Vegas, but I’ll try to run at least a couple times. So here’s what happened this week, in brief. . .

Thumb MNiC BTY FW4

 

Sunday: 160 sit ups, 175 push up, 16 pull ups. This was just to check up where we stood on the test. Still need a little work on the swim, and I’m sure I’m well short on the run. Once that was done, we did a bit more, because we were feeling pretty good. Back stuff. Lots of downward rows. Tire lifting.

Monday: Sore, sore, sore. Swam 1000m. Didn’t eat after breakfast, no endurance, which was interesting. Felt like so much dead weight.

Tuesday: I can feel the difference in muscle mass as I move, as my shirts hug tighter to my frame, and little things, like the way my forearms feel against the table as I type this. This is just the first month, and it’s been, at times, tough, and at others fairly easy, but overall I find myself satisfied with the results.

Wednesday: Still sore, or rather sore in new areas.

Thursday: Went by myself, worked out everything that didn’t hurt until it hurt.

Friday: Rest day?

Saturday: Hiking with LM out in South Mountain urban park, in the Phoenix Valley. I’d never been there before, so it was a bit of a surprise–it’s a granite formation! Does that not excite you? I thought it was interesting. The view was fantastic. We hiked a few miles, only got a little lost (that’s a win for us) and the moon was bright enough to see our shadows, so the (slightly unintentional) night hike was tons of fun. One of the most scenic hikes in awhile–the company wasn’t half bad either.

 

IMG_20131214_174431_236

 

Sunday: Rest Day. All I did was saw a large branch into smaller pieces, worked on some projects, and some assorted other physical activities. It was really a great day off.

Results

Now, remember, these are non-flexing, non-sucking-in, photos (the goal being to show changes to muscle tone and such, rather than just how hard I can pretend to lift something) but obviously there are differences in posture and lighting. Anyway, this marks the end of the first month going back to the gym, and it’s about the point that results should start to be visible, so let’s see how that all went.:

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Overall, I’m very happy with how this is going so far. I’m satisfied with this one month, although I did think I’d be performing a little bit better on the endurance tests. I’m still not back to where I was on bench presses, but I’m way ahead of what I was expecting on some of the other workouts. So I’ll call that a wash, and a net positive. Let’s see how the next month goes!

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Better Than Yesterday: Fitness Week 3 5

 

Thumb MNiC BTY FW3

Well, I’ve survived my third week of fitness training, and I’m headed into the fourth. I feel good. Really good. I can feel some subtle changes to my center of mass, or balance, whatever you want to call it–the weight of my body shifts a little differently when I move compared to a couple weeks ago. So far I haven’t observed any of the nipple migration I noticed when I started lifting last year, which may mean I’m not gaining across the chest, or it might not, not sure.

I haven’t done enough swimming this week to do any meaningful comparisons.

Since the last post was written late (on a Tuesday) not much has changed. The diet, so far, has been going fine. My sleep schedule is a little off, given that I have the energy to stay awake past ten at night. The goal is always, always, always simple; better than yesterday.

Really, there’s not much to report. Modest gains to strength and endurance, and my weight’s back up to 180, but that doesn’t mean much, given my weight can fluctuate five pounds in a given week whether I exercise or not.

Here are the usual comparative pictures.

Fit Week 3

Last Week.

 

And this week:

Fit Week 3 End

Oh, one note. Just looked up BMI. That must be the dumbest metric I’ve ever seen. It takes into account height and weight, only. If I put on another five pounds of muscle OR fat I’ll be “overweight” apparently. Somehow I doubt that’s accurate.

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Better Than Yesterday: Fitness Week 2 4

Slightly late on this, I forgot I was doing them on Sundays. Somehow you’ll survive this delay, I think. It works out from a writing perspective, since most of the changes from last week happened on Monday. Anyway, here we go.

 

Thumb MNiC FW2

 

Well, this has been an interesting week.

When I first looked at the requirements for the  Air Force Special Tactics Physical Ability Stamina Test (PAST) for CCT units (my training partner is training for them) they looked pretty easy. I was very wrong about that. I thought I would be able to suffer through all of them right at the start, but when I tried a couple weeks ago, I could do the 8 pull-ups and the 2x25M underwater swim, and nothing else. Walking away from that first attempt I revised my assessment to “no freaking way”. As of yesterday, I can do everything but the 10:10 1.5 mile run. Monday, I busted out 50 push ups in one minute — half the time allowed on the tests, and double what I could a week ago. I squeaked by on the sit ups, another doubling over last week, and I managed to pull out 9 (and 9/10ths) pull-ups, which is surprisingly hard after swimming 800m.

The swimming has been shockingly easy to improve in. Maybe I set the bar low; I thought it would be to begin with, but the first day I was cramping up by 250m and absolutely drained by 500m. I felt just about fine after swimming 1500m last week. What I have to do now is build up my endurance. I can get through the 500m with time left on the clock, but I’m on track for a 9 minute pace through the first 200m, then I slow down, a lot. I want to be able to do 500m without taking more than thirty seconds to cross the pool at any point. Flank speed right now is 22 seconds, but I can only keep that up for one lap.

So, it was all harder than I thought to do, and easier than I expected (once I’d tried) to get in shape for.

This was an interesting development because it brought home for me is how far below my potential I operate–and not just me, this applies to almost everybody. I’m not in bad shape, I’m in good-average shape for my age group, and if this is what going into my third week of regular training can do, well, we all need to hit the gym more. I’m not particularly athletic. I have some impressive durability and I’m strong, but I’m about as coordinated as plaid pants with a striped shirt, so I think most people could reasonably expect to perform at least as well as I have.

What I’m trying to emphasize is that I’m physically normal, and I’m wasting it. Look at us all, stuck in these amazing bodies and not using them. I am living through the unpleasant realization that I’ve spent the last half decade driving a Porsche around in 1st gear!

Understand this analogy only works in a world where shifting into learning how to use 2nd gear involves waking up and spending the first fifteen minutes of the day convincing yourself that you’re not, reeeeeeeeeeeeeallly, too sore to move at all. It just feels that way. Also, I am rapidly developing ab definition, which is pretty cool. I’m not sure how much is muscle and how much is loss of fat, but I’m liking it.

Here are the usual photos, as usual, no sucking in or puffing out, just relaxed. Here’s last week:

Fitness 11-24

 

And this week:

Fit Week 3

 

So that’s the fun side of things. The less fun thing is that Chase and I have been running up against a wall. Physical fitness, at least for me, always follows a binary path: I get my muscles in shape but endurance lags behind them, so I get my endurance up, and eventually my muscles can’t keep up, lather, rinse, repeat. So we’ve done some research and we’re switching to a healthier diet. We were already eating relatively healthy, but “relatively” doesn’t cut it for twice a day workouts.

We needed to optimize our food intake so that we’re pulling in enough calories to keep us going. Both of us lost five pounds this week, while gaining the muscle tone and strength to double sit ups and push ups. That’s 180-175 for me and 160-155 for him–and he had less fat to begin with, so that’s a big drop off. There’s a lot more getting burnt off than we’re putting in the tanks.

Now a pound of body fat contains 2.8-3.7 kilocalories, so in order to lose that five pounds we were operating at a daily calorie deficit of at 2000 calories per day.

We did some quick math, and we figure we’re burning 4000 calories a day, total, give or take. Good workouts keep right on burning energy after you finish, doing things like replenishing your energy supplies and repairing the damage to your muscles. So we need to make up the difference.

So over the next week we’ll be looking at the improvements a change in diet might bring, and I’ll take a good look at whatever meal routine develops. I might have to start running, too.

Oh, and as promised. . . I couldn’t pull off a good Johnny Bravo and aim the camera, but one flexing picture:

Man I'm prrrretty!

Man I’m prrrretty!

 

 

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Better Than Yesterday: Fitness Week 1 6

 

Thumb MNiC FW1

So I’m going to be doing physical stuff every day, but I have no intention of posting every day. . . Sundays are the rest day, so I’m just going to do the weekly update then. The irony of picking the laziest possible way to do my workout updates didn’t escape me. Just so you know.

The General Approach

I’m not too concerned with how I look. For me, working out is about getting stronger and being more fit. I want to be able to outrun bears and punch out mountain lions, not model underwear. I don’t mind looking good and I figure that will follow being strong and fast, but it’s a secondary goal. On top of that I’m helping my friend Chase train for the Air Force spec ops CCT tests. They don’t look hard, but they are. Chase is in pretty good shape, but teaching him to swim is like teaching a dolphin to jog.  He”ll get there, but there will be a lot of flopping around.

We’re both, as we discovered working out together in college, very competitive, which is both great and, well, dangerous. We could use a third person to follow us around and remind us that we have to do this again tomorrow, and it’s going to suck.

The next bit is through Tuesday Nov. 19th, when I started writing this.

I’ve decided to go for a general fitness routine. I’m not doing just one thing, I’m doing all sorts of things. It keeps things interesting. At least for this first month, a lot of what I’m doing is going to involve helping my friend  In the meantime, I’m sore. I’ve been learning the military sidestroke, which has been fun, but my upper body just isn’t up for it yet.

The first bit week has been swimming and trips to the gym. The immediate lesson is simply that I need more energy. My tanks are empty about halfway through and it leaves me feeling dead in the water. Not to mention nauseous. So I’m looking at adding a lot of protein and carbs to my diet, and hydrating better.

Wednesday:

Went hiking on North Mountain, which is a huge mountain park in the middle of Phoenix, with a friend. We ended up taking the wrong trail down, and spent an extra hour wandering through a nice neighborhood in Phoenix before finding our way back to the right park entrance. It turned a fourish mile hike into an eightish mile hike, but it was good times. My boots are still giving me blisters, unfortunately. A real disappoint compared to my old pair. This was, to my mind, enough for one day of working out.

It was a beautiful day, mid-70s with nice and cloudy with just a spit of rain now and then. Really, the best of all possible hiking weather.

LaurenHiking

Looking towards Piestawa Peak.

Thursday:

Started out the day with a trip to the gym, swam 750m practicing the military side stroke. I’ve been trying to help Chase learn the stroke, and he’s been making real progress. We’re shooting for finishing the 500m swim in less than ten minutes. That’s thirty seconds for each 25m trip across the pool, and it’s not an easy pace to keep up for either of us over that distance.

Anyway, we were pretty tired from that, so the second trip to the gym for pull-ups, push-ups, sit-ups (which are on the test) to failure,  and then various free weight exercises later was brutal. . . There’s that feeling you get in your muscles when they know they should be able to lift something, but they can’t.

Friday:

I skipped swimming. Everything hurts. We hit everything else even harder, though. Sit-ups and push-ups we’ve separated by muscle groups so we can do more. This means we do crunches to failure, rest for 30 seconds, then do the upper half of the sit-ups to failure. Then repeat twice. The push-ups follow the same pattern, just with wide, middle, and diamond hand placement, again three sets of each, to failure each time.

We threw a medicine ball around until our arms gave out, working on core strength and endurance (which is needed for every exercise on the fitness test) and managed to get 50 pull-ups done. . . over the course of lots and lots of sets.

Saturday:

Today was an easy day. We headed to the pool for sprints. We swam a pyramidal set, so 50, 50, 100, 100, 200, 100, 100, 50, 50 meters. We were both feeling fine at the end of it, so we’re going to add in an extra 200 next time, to bring the total to 1000. The swim on the test is only 500m so that should take care of any endurance issues. The minimum average lap pace is 35 seconds per lap (across pool one way). I’m well under that up until 200m but I’m pretty done by the time I get that far. My fast 50m so far has been :57 and I’d like to be maintaining a pace of :25 second laps for 500m by three weeks from now.

Sunday Weekly Review:

Today is our planned rest day, so that’s when I’ll be doing my weekly update, as I said. I’ve decided I might as well include pictures so people can see if anything’s changing. What’s the point of saying I’m getting in shape and not actually providing any evidence? Anyway, here I am. I’m just standing there, no flexing, no sucking in, partly because that defeats the purpose of this, and partly because I’m not sure it would make any difference anyway.

 

Here I am at the beginning of the week.

Here I am at the beginning of the week.

 

And now for the stunning progress:

And here I am a week later looking EXACTLY THE SAME, because isn't gratification only happens when you get the blue shell in Mario Kart.

And here I am a week later looking EXACTLY THE SAME, because isn’t gratification only happens when you get the blue shell in Mario Kart.

 

Anyway, my energy levels have skyrocketed over the course of the week. I felt like slow death after 350m on Monday, and Saturday I swam 800m without coming close to the bottom of the tank. I’m probably eating about twice as much food as I was a week ago. So far I’ve deviated from my usual getting-in-shape experience as far as weight is concerned. Normally, I drop about ten pounds in the first week or two as I slim down, and start slowly gaining mass. I’m more focused on cardio than I’ve ever been before, so I was expecting a similar pattern. I’ve actually gained a couple pounds.

There are a few possible contributing factors. The first is that I was a fair bit more muscled six months ago before I hurt myself, so my body may be more primed to start shoving resources into muscle again (I’m going back over old paths instead of clearing new ground). The second is that I ramped up calorie intake fast, so I may not be relying on burning fat as much as usual. The last is simply that this workout is less about isolated muscles and more about a full-body experience, and all the small muscles being worked out at once may be gaining mass as fast as fat reserves are getting burnt off. Oh, I suppose all the running I did over the summer may have left me with a lower fat percentage than I expected, as well.

Anyway, one week in I’m loving this. I’m improving very quickly, I’m feeling good. Next week I’ll be keeping better track of exact numbers, and every week or so we’re going to give the full test a try, just to see how it goes. I’m still waaaaaaaaaaaay slow on the 1.5 mile run. I need a 9mph pace, minimum, and that’s simply faster than I can run that far just yet without taking a break to throw up. We’ll see if I can fix that in the next week.

Check back in next Sunday for Round 2 of the fitness blog!

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