California Dreaming

Well, I’ve been absent from this blog for some time now. Work has been crazy….way too crazy. Actually crazy is a mild way to put it, because everyone has some crazy stuff at work. I’ve had bat-shit crazy at work and that is never a good thing. Stress was very high. Alcohol consumption followed suit with the stress. Workouts were ok, but I’d ceased to make any real gains in fitness. On top of that, I wasn’t really doing much socially either. I was in a rut and a bad one at that.

A funny thing often happens when you get into a rut, if you’re paying attention. An opportunity will present itself; often quietly and often in the guise of something silly, something not even worth considering. That’s what happened to me and I decided to make a change.  After nearly 15 years of calling New Jersey my home, I took a new job and moved my family to sunny Southern California.

The move itself has been fast, furious, and full of stress. That being said, we’re on the tail end of it now (closing on our house in a little over a week). We’re already seeing the positives manifest. Although  a relocation company was moving our stuff, we’ve gotten rid of a lot of it. Stress levels are decreasing. Alcohol consumption as well. I’m getting up earlier and running in the AM (which I’ve always found difficult). There’s actually time for both my wife and I to run (one after the other). I’m also finding I’m running farther and more often. All good things.

I guess the take home is that it is important to step back, to reset…and yes, sometimes to change course. Life is an adventure. It is temporal and brief. And most of all, remember that we’re only renting the coffee.

Be Well!

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Tough Mudder Training – Core Principle 3 – Pick a Base Workout

After outlining The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles and fleshing out our first two principles, Identify an Inspiration and Assess your Fitness Level,  it is now time to delve into Principle 3…

3) Pick a Base Workout(s) – Total Body Strength Training, Core, and Cardio.

This principle could (should?) have been entitled “Design Your Workout Program”, but that sort of implies that you can’t just use something out of the box; that you need all sorts of research and analysis to get started…All discouraging thoughts.

I’m trying to be helpful, encouraging, and inspiring in any way I can. So I want you to know that there are plenty of off-the shelf workout programs that will work just fine to prepare you for the Mudder; You only need to design something new….IF YOU WANT TO. The key is that whatever workout program you pick, it needs to include total body strength training (especially core strength training) and cardio training….and you should enjoy it (or at least parts of it). Here’s an example Base Program from the Tough Mudder site.

So just to be clear, Principle 8 “Mix it up” will encourage us to keep changing up the exercises we’re doing so as to train the whole body in all sorts of ways and to avoid any “plateau effects”. The body will adapt to any workout or exercise at some point so to avoid this, we will keep switching it up. The Base Workout Program is the essential exercises that will be the bulk of our training, that we’ll vary from, that we’ll keep coming back to. It is the default. OK, I think I’m clear on that…Here’s what  I used for my Basic Workouts:

Day 1 – Upper Body: 5 sets of the following: Chinups, Pushups, Plank, Inverted Pushups, Crunches, and Dips.

Day 2 – Lower Body: 5 sets of the following: Scissor-kick lunges, calf dips, step-ups/step-downs, and Deadlifts

Day 3 – Cardio: 1 Set Strength Exercise (usually burpee pushups), Run 1 mile, assess joints/muscles, rinse repeat until “done”.

Day 4 – Recovery/Stretch

I may need to elaborate on these in a later post, but that is essentially what I did as basic workouts. Notice, it is not a lot of exercises….And once you start mixing other elements in, you may simplify the basic workout even more. That’s it for now. Pick your program and get to it…..

 

The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles

1) Identify an Inspiration – To keep on doing…

2) Assess your Fitness Level – At first and Often.

3) Pick a Base Workout(s) – Total Body Strength Training, Core, and Cardio.

4) Incorporate Functional Exercises – Pick Pushups over Bench-press.

5) Focus on the Exercise Intensity, Not Duration – Short Intense Burst are Best.

6) Exercise Outside as much as possible – Get used to the elements.

7) Include Recovery Days in your Workout Plan – Plan them, don’t just take “a day off”.

8) Mix it up – Avoid that plateau by doing different exercises.

9) Share your progress – To keep you honest and accountable.

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Tough Mudder Training – Core Principle 2 – Assess your Fitness Level

After outlining The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles and fleshing out our first principle, Identify an Inspiration, it is now time to delve into Principle 2…

2) Assess your Fitness Level – At first and Often.

To maintain momentum on our Journey along the Tough Mudder Trail…and that is exactly what it is, a Journey, seeing progress is critical. With measurable progress being best, we need a yardstick.

Now, there are any number of ways to do this. Most workout programs include some sort of initial/periodic assessment. I looked at a lot of workout programs in constructing my own. We’ll talk more about these programs in relation to Core Principle 3 – Pick a Base Workout, but for now we’ll focus on the component that I used most to assess my progress…The Pushup.

Quite possibly the most ubiquitous of all exercises, its simple elegance and effectiveness,  coupled with the fact that it requires no equipment of any kind, makes the Pushup ideal to use in our self assessment.

For my Pushup self assessments, I actually used the Hundred Pushup program, in which one works over 6+ weeks to the goal of doing 100 pushups in one set. That sounds like a lot…and it is, but the feeling when you bang out the 100 is amazing. And we’re talking about the Tough Mudder here!

Another thing to mention is that you can vary the types of pushups you do (there are lots of variants) or do similar programs for other key exercises. For example, after I did the #HundredPushups, I went on to do the #TwentyPullups Challenge. The key thing is that you keep on measuring. Your progress will keep you inspired. Doing programs like this…you will feel strong!

OK, technically, it should be hyphenated as “push-up”, but I, like many others, have chosen to take the liberty of dispensing with the “-“. Deal with it. Now drop and give me 20!

 

The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles

1) Identify an Inspiration – To keep on doing…

2) Assess your Fitness Level – At first and Often.

3) Pick a Base Workout(s) – Total Body Strength Training, Core, and Cardio.

4) Incorporate Functional Exercises – Pick Pushups over Bench-press.

5) Focus on the Exercise Intensity, Not Duration – Short Intense Burst are Best.

6) Exercise Outside as much as possible – Get used to the elements.

7) Include Recovery Days in your Workout Plan – Plan them, don’t just take “a day off”.

8) Mix it up – Avoid that plateau by doing different exercises.

9) Share your progress – To keep you honest and accountable.

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Cold

It was cold outside
And because the kids were away
It was quiet in the house
And it would be all day.

I was working from home
with three cats sleeping near
That I’d be getting lots done
was ever so clear.

So I routed the laundry
While I reviewed a technical doc
Planned out my day
Using my calendar and clock.

There’d be time for a workout
and a quick bite to eat.
But mostly there’d be email, reports, and phone calls
while I sat in my seat.

So I wrote this quick poem
To add a little fun
While I considered the weather
and whether it was too cold to run.

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Tough Mudder Training – Core Principle 1 – Identify an Inspiration

After outlining The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles, it is now time to delve into them in a bit more detail. Essentially, I’ll be attempting to lay out some practical application here. So let’s jump right in…

1) Identify an Inspiration – To keep on doing…

Inspiration is critical when tackling something as demanding as the Tough Mudder. You just need something to make you want to keep working toward the goal. When you start training, it is very easy to just skip a day. One day turns into a week and before you know it, the event is upon you and you’re not ready. Or maybe you notice as it approaches and try to do some “catch-up training”. A sure path to injury!

Eventually, strong habits can be formed and you’ll find yourself just training because that is what you do. But even then, there will be days when your heart isn’t in it and you’ll catch yourself just phoning it in. What I found was that having a strong inspirational trigger was instrumental in keeping on and getting the most out of my workouts. In my case, I found mine in the training section of the actual Tough Mudder website. There, they showcase their favorite training film from Mustache Man Training.

I have to tell you, after I saw that film…I had to do the Tough Mudder. And any time I felt my confidence flag and I needed some inspiration, I put it on…Hell, I still do. He highlights a lot of great training, packs it into a digestible (5 min) video collage of sorts, and sets it to a great Isley Brothers song, “Keep on Doing”…The song is really the icing on the cake for me. My wife and I were humming and singing it all through the 12 miles of the Tri State Mudder in 2011.

Obviously, tastes in music vary greatly from person to person, so find something that speaks to you. If the Isley Brothers don’t serve to pump you up, I’ve found Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” to be a great workout song…especially for long runs. My friend and team mate, Adam, prefers Rush

Not everyone is so inspired by music. Some draw inspiration from Nature, Poetry or Prose, Art….or a bit of each. Your mileage may vary. The folks over at Health Habits are posting a series of inspirational “Instant Exercise Motivators”…Here’s #11. If anyone has anything to add in terms of inspiration, please feel free to share in the comments. That’s all for today. So work hard Mudders and be sure to have fun. After all, we’re only renting the coffee.

 

The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles

1) Identify an Inspiration – To keep on doing…

2) Assess your Fitness Level – At first and Often.

3) Pick a Base Workout(s) – Total Body Strength Training, Core, and Cardio.

4) Incorporate Functional Exercises – Pick Pushups over Bench-press.

5) Focus on the Exercise Intensity, Not Duration – Short Intense Burst are Best.

6) Exercise Outside as much as possible – Get used to the elements.

7) Include Recovery Days in your Workout Plan – Plan them, don’t just take “a day off”.

8) Mix it up – Avoid that plateau by doing different exercises.

9) Share your progress – To keep you honest and accountable.

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Tough Mudder Training – Core Principles Introduction

In November, I completed the Tri-State Tough Mudder with my lovely wife (and yes, she’s tougher than me). It was totally a rush. Different than anything I’ve ever done and now I’m hooked and have signed up for the Pennsylvania Mudder in May. My wife won’t be doing it with me this time. As she put it, “The Mudder was so hard she’d rather run a marathon and give birth in the same afternoon than do another.” Seeing as she has run two marathons and birthed our two kids without any drugs, she can make statements like that.

Anyway, since the Mudder is about camaraderie, I recruited a new team…some friends from high school, a college buddy, a friend of a friend, etc. I’ve gotten some questions from the team about what to do to train. And while I’m not an expert, I think I prepared myself pretty well for the first Mudder so I thought I’d share what I did.

My teammates and I do not live near each other, our fitness levels likely vary a lot, and our schedules do not mesh well so we will not be training directly together in person. That being said, I’ve assembled some Core Training Principles that served me well while training that I think will be helpful to the team…and to others who might be training for the Mudder. I’ll be delving into each in a series of posts, but for those who want the Cliff’s Notes version to get started, here they are, followed by the actual training I did for the first Mudder.

The Coffee Renter’s Tough Mudder Training Core Principles

1) Identify an Inspiration – To keep on doing…

2) Assess your Fitness Level – At first and Often.

3) Pick a Base Workout(s) – Total Body Strength Training, Core, and Cardio.

4) Incorporate Functional Exercises – Pick Pushups over Bench-press.

5) Focus on the Exercise Intensity, Not Duration – Short Intense Burst are Best.

6) Exercise Outside as much as possible – Get used to the elements.

7) Include Recovery Days in your Workout Plan – Plan them, don’t just take “a day off”.

8) Mix it up – Avoid that plateau by doing different exercises.

9) Share your progress – To keep you honest and accountable.

Now, I’ll be expounding on each of these in subsequent posts, but for now, I’ll just describe a rudimentary workout that worked well for me:

The Coffee Renter’s Base Workout Model: Do a set of Pushups, Run a Mile, assess how you feel, if your joints/muscles aren’t hurting too much, rinse repeat until you’re done. Be sure to stop before you hurt yourself.  Scale the # of pushups in each set to your current fitness level. If you’re not currently running much, initially scale the mile to say half a mile. The next time you do the workout, swap the pushups out for Pullups, Lunges, Bur-pees, etc. Just keep varying the strength training exercises to hit every muscle group in your body and to keep it guessing. Be sure to take a recovery day initially between these workouts. As you get stronger and get a better sense of your progress you’ll have a better idea on when to take recovery days.

This should get you started. I’ll be touching on each of these Core Principles and providing more examples over the next week or two. I’ll be sure to update this post with links as well. For now, keep on doing…Tough Mudders! And remember, you’re only renting the coffee; so enjoy yourself!

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Skies of Wonder

Skies of Wonder

Twice the skies did darken
and the heavens open and release the waters
which fell heavily upon the earth.

The thunder rumbled and made itself known
and the earth sat quietly
unfazed by its neighbors noisy outburst.

And each time, as suddenly as it had started,
the rains moved on, the skies cleared, the thunder settled,
and the birds sang once more.

The third onslaught of the storm promised
to be the mightiest and most fierce
but just now, the birdsong seemed stronger.

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