Friday, November 23, 2012

More on Kettle bells...


Ok, so the image that most people think of (at least those in the "know" about what kettle bells are and what they're all about) is not that of Lance Armstrong doing a swing.  However, since he is a popular athlete-particularly in the last few months-it seems appropriate for me to begin this post with a picture of him doing a swing.  For the vast population of those people in gyms, kettle bells seem gimmicky...even at one time they did to me.  But, and it's a big BUT, there's so much more than meets the eye with these things.

There's a long history that I won't go into here (look it up on wikipedia if you've got the time), but I will say, that they've been around much longer than "traditional" gym equipment, and in my opinion, are a far better option when seeking to get the most from your workouts, and your performance potential.  

Speaking of "performance", lets take a moment to talk about that.  The number one thing that anyone should expect from any kind of exercise is performance.  Most think of performance as being an "athlete only" thing, but in real life, we've got to perform very basic activities day in and day out.  When someone talks about quality of life, they're referring to performance and how well you perform the basic functions of everyday life.  Nearly everyone is physical in some way.  Just to get out of bed in the morning, you've got to perform the actions we mimic with exercise (think crunches and squats).  It's of the absolute greatest importance that whether or not you fancy your self as an athlete, you are strong in the fundamental movements you PERFORM on a daily basis.  

Going back to kettle bells, the various kettle bell exercises mimic the things we do day in and day out.  I'm not going to go onto a long lecture on what specific exercises cover which specific actions, but I assure you, if you're to start a program integrating kettle bells (having learned to use them correctly of course), you're not only going to be stronger swimming, biking, or running, but you're going to cover yourself from injury and imbalance, not to mention making that next session of cleaning up the yard or chopping wood much, much easier.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Run what ya brung!

Though the title of this post often refers to mountain biking, I think it's got a bigger meaning and has been something I've thought about often these days.  As winter is looming, and surely going to be much worse than last year's "snowless" one, I'm thinking of more and more ways to be creative with my exercise so I don't get the dreaded seasonal depression that has afflicted me so often in the past.

As you know (or may not), I love to ride my bike.  I'll take a day on the mountain bike over just about anything else (exercise related anyway).  Being in the woods and on singletrack is one of my greatest pleasures in life.  I love my fiance, and I love my family, but being able to shred is a thing that is nearly sacred.  It clears my head and can put me in a good mood for days afterward.  These days I'm not riding as much as I want to, but when I do it's pure bliss.

Anyway, as I stated before, I'm trying to broaden my "winter athletics" horizons.  I like snowboarding quite a bit and have been exploring that avenue.  It's got all the same adrenaline rush as downhill mountain biking, and combines skills from skateboarding and surfing (some of which I have from skateboarding) that I feel can be fun and enjoyable to me.  I like building skills, both on the bike and otherwise, so the snowboarding might provide enough stimulus to get me over the hump.

Another thing I want to dedicate myself to is hitting the kettle bells...HARD.  I started lifting again this summer and since have felt so much better both on the bike and off.  It's fun to be strong and it's something that I never again want to let lapse.

The point I want to make is that you have to make due with what's presented to you.  In the past, I've let myself get down and allowed other things in life that are out of my control to dictate the way I've felt.  I've realized over the last few years that this is quite possibly the worst thing you can do.  If you can't control your body and your own emotions, what can you expect to get out of life?  If you let yourself get frustrated with things that are and never will be in your control, you will be lost.  No matter what life gives you, make the best out of it that you can.  Run what you brung!

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Whenever I sit down here to compose a blog, I usually start off with one thought in my mind that switches to about 30 by the end of the post.  I don't edit this in any way and I rarely re-read what I write, so I'm sorry if it doesn't make sense at times.  It is what it is and that's why I like it.  This is my little space to spout off at the mouth and I'll take the liberties it awards me with the greatest of appreciation.  In other words, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to!

I'm currently in a bit of a transitional phase, both in my life and in the sports (see: hobbies) I pursue.  I'm happily engaged to the most wonderful and beautiful woman I've ever met and I'm working hard at being the best man and best future husband I can be.  She makes me want to be a better man (yeah, that sounds cliche but it's absolutely true) and I can't imagine letting her down.  She's the best thing in my life and I'm more than excited to live, grow, and have a family with her.  On the sports side of thing, I'm for the moment putting a lot of things on hold.  I've had the itch to start racing again (only downhill and enduro), but for now it just isn't right.  I don't have the time to make the commitment to it that I'd want to in order to be competitive, and because of this have decided it's best to just ride my bikes and have fun when I can.  It's not a cop out, it's just reality.  I've thought about how much time I'd need to feel confident in my racing abilities, but the need for money and procuring a future for me and my future wife is just more of a priority right now.  As the great Lucho once told me, "racing will always be there".  He's right.

Exercise, in relation to my sports, though, has been a lot of fun.  I've been exploring kettle bells quite a lot in the past months, and I'm in love with the feeling of being strong again.  I hadn't realized how much I'd slipped in the strength department when I was busy riding my bike.  Let's just say it's almost embarrassing to see how much I'd slipped in that regard.  Nevertheless, after a few months swinging around kettle bells and becoming serious about strength training, I'm feeling a lot less like a girly man and much more like I did in my early twenties.  For me now, the only thing I need to watch out for is over doing it.  Physically I'll be able to hold up much better and see increasing results if I don't push it too much.  Like everything, too much is often a bad thing when it comes to kettle bells.

And then there's my new dirt jumping obsession.  Like I said in my post yesterday, it scares the hell out of me and that's why I'm doing it.  I haven't found many things in life that feel better than conquering your fears, and this is just another test of my own meddle.  I'm still amazed at how the process of doing these things work, and the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you get what you're going after.  Pretty cool all around and a journey I'm enjoying thus far.

Long story short, life is good.  There's a lot of exciting things in store, along with a lot of changes as well.  Life is continuing to march on, and for one of the few times in my life, I feel like I'm in the train and on the right track.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Process

In sports you hear the words "the process" thrown around quite a bit.  In endurance sports that coincides most times with training; in team sports it can mean cohesion of a team and/or skills development.  So many times throughout my athletic life, I've heard these words but never really sat back to think about what they mean.  Sure I've always trained or practiced for something, but I always just let things take their natural course.  I suppose as I grow more into adulthood and approach new sports with a more mature mind, I "think" things through much more now than I did when I was younger and just "did" them.

On a bit of a whim, I got a dirt jump bike this autumn.  Obviously I've been riding bikes for quite some time now, but in with my ever-lasting desire to learn more stuff (about every two years I shift my focus to a new sport-I'm developing a pattern here!) I decided to give it a go.  The seed was really planted this summer in Spain when I watched all the kids in the village riding DJ bikes everywhere-and I mean EVERYWHERE.  They rode them on the streets, the steps, the trails-anywhere and over everything. I loved the versatility of the bikes and figured owning one would be worthwhile just because of that.  But, it was when I saw them jumping that I was sold.  Small jumps or big jumps, it didn't matter.  It was awesome to see them develop their skills...and skills, after all, are what attracted me to my love of mountain biking.  See where I'm going here?

Ok, well if you don't I'll spell it out.  Skills on a bike are something I really value.  When someone tells me that "so-and-so" is a good rider, I ask them, "In what way?"  To me, Lance Armstrong is a 'strong' rider, but I wouldn't necessarily call him a 'good' rider.  Danny McCaskill is a ridiculously 'great' rider, but he might not be considered a 'strong' rider.  The measure of a rider, in my opinion, of being fit vs. skilled is very important.  Lance is very fit and can ride on paved surfaces faster than most, but Danny can backflip, front flip, tail whip, etc. until the cows come home.  It's two different types of riding-one requiring great fitness and one requiring great skill.  Sure, it takes skill to climb, descend, and navigate mountain roads like Lance, but I don't think I'd lose an argument as to who the more 'skilled' rider was.

So anyway, with all that, my skill set on a bike is very important to me.  I feel that endurance can be built up in anyone.  Skills require a patience and natural ability that not everyone possesses.  Yeah, there are some people who will be faster and stronger than others as they reach their peak fitness, but I feel like there is a much more definitive line drawn by what limits skill development.  Earning your peak fitness on a bike takes patience and commitment.  Earning your maximum skill potential takes patience and, in most cases, a giant set of balls.

Back to the DJ bike...
So I got this thing and have ridden it a few times.  Been to the dirt jumps (before today) a couple times, and then did some street riding (learned 180's and how to ride backwards-before falling off-in the process).  It wasn't until hitting the jumps today, though, that I realized learning the new skill of dirt jumping is a process.  It takes commitment, heart, and guts enough to know that you're going to crash, get dirty, and possibly get injured.  However, if you go about it in a specific way, you're going to get the most out of it.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I'm taking a more "thinking man's" approach to this.  The idea that I'm "just going to get out and do it" doesn't take a back seat, but it does share one with the question of "how am I going to get there?"  The answer, quite simply is progression.  You start small, doing what you can manage, and then you push the envelope ever so slightly.  When you get comfortable there, push it only a slight bit more.  Get out of your comfort zone until it becomes your comfort zone.  Then, continue to repeat this process.  With consistency, you'll build confidence and strength in what you do.

What I've got here isn't anything grand, and certainly isn't anything that anyone who has accomplished anything in their life would consider strange.  What I suppose it is, is a road map for getting to where I want to go.  With endurance sports, this would be referred to as a training plan.  I'll call it my "skill-development plan".

The process is what this is all about.  Learning along the way and dealing with adversity won't always be an easy thing, but in the end I'll find out some things about myself and do something that I'll be proud of.  I think what's most important in this is that I do this for me and only for me.  Sure I'm stoked that it'll look cool and people might think I have "talent", but why I really do this is because it legitimately scares me.  Something about overcoming that fear and doing with my body what my brain says isn't possible is kind of a cool thing.  Actually, it's a DAMN cool thing.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

A bit more thought...

After I posted my last post yesterday, I started to think that perhaps I'd been a bit too harsh.  Maybe I was letting things get to me a little too much and getting them out on the screen helped.  I won't exactly go back on what I said yesterday, and the thoughts expressed, but I will say that the way I reacted was a little over the top.  It's not that I'm apologizing for the way I feel-and the last thing I want to do is come off being PC-I just feel that everyone has their own ways to deal with things and mine was to spurt out a bunch of thoughts on my blog.  Enough said.

Things are slowly getting back to normal.  The storm that came about 2 weeks ago still has lingering effects (people are still without power, water, and homes), but life as I know it is just about back to what it was before.  One glaring thing though, still out of the norm, is the mountain bike trails in the area.  Some trail systems were hit harder than others, but I think my most local trails were hit the hardest.  Trees are down and branches along with other debris cover the trail.  It's a mess back there and it made my attempt to ride with some folks today a near impossibility.  Still it was good to get out and get on with some things, but it's going to be a lot of hard work and time before the trails are back to what they were.

The rest of the day will consist of caffeine, yard cleanup, and football.  Not a special day by any stretch of the imagination.  The one huge difference between this day and the past days is the weather, however.  Super warm and beautifully sunny.  Had the trails been primed and ready to go, it would have been the perfect day for a ride.  Cool enough not to sweat too much, but warm enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts.  PERFECT riding weather.

Tomorrow, weather wise, will be more of the same, so at least that's something to look forward to.  Anyway....Keep on trucking!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Am I being too hard on people?

For the last couple of weeks, I've been on edge from the storm and having to rearrange my life according to what "easy" things were now transformed into "hard" things.  More than anything, this storm, for me at least, was just one of inconvenience.  I didn't loose loved ones, property, or anything other than power, so to say I and my family got off easy is an understatement.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand.  I got out on my road bike early this morning, and, after having missed the group I was supposed to ride with, decided to run some errands, one of which involved stopping in to the gym where I work.  It's been a while since I showed up in full lycra to the gym, and I usually like to keep a low profile about my riding when I'm there (I don't want what I do for fun to become "part" of my job).  As I walked about, grabbing a few things before setting off again, a member  came up to me and inquired about where I was riding, how many miles I planned to do, and how many hours a week I train-all the normal stuff I've been asked a million times by anyone interested in what I was doing.  Innocent enough question, but then it lead to him telling me about his son, how he just did a half ironman, how he brings his bike with him when he comes to visit, and how if I want a "real" workout, I should try and keep up with his son when he's here.

While I was smiley and cordial on the outside, I was burning from the inside.  I get so pissed when people start to compare workouts, compare times, and compare their "strengths".  It's just like cockroaches, as soon as one measured "thing" is announced, everything starts to come out and be compared.

As I rode on after this happened, I started to wonder if I was mad because I was competitive and wanted to say that I was probably a better rider than his son?  Or was I mad because I'm genuinely sick of this "look at me (or my friend/son/daughter/etc.) and how tough I am" attitude.  The truth is, no one cares!  Nobody cares about how much you rode your bike or how tough you are because of it.  I'll admit, when put in the correct forum and in the correct wording, "training talk" can be cool and very beneficial.  However, if I posted up every ride/workout/stretch/poop I did, even I would get sick of myself.  Yeah, triathlon, and all endurance sports are tough, but I don't think any more or less of you as a person because of what you can or can't do.

I suppose what I'm getting at here is that I'm sick of people hiding behind masks.  They try and prove something to everyone (and especially themselves) by describing how hard what they do is.  Generally, all this running around boils down to a hobby for 90% of the individuals involved.  Therefore, it is something that is done by choice and by fun.  It's kind of hard to be a certified badass when you're doing an activity (albeit a tough one) that you chose to do and in some way enjoy.  Tell the soldiers fighting our wars that you're a badass for riding your bike while their out risking their lives so you can.  Tell them how hard your last swim session was, and try to impress them with how hard you are because you did a stacked brick workout.  I'm sure they'll agree you're just as tough as you think you are as they tell you about how they were able to get out of their Humvee just before it exploded from an IED.  And they'll surely agree that you're a tough guy because you held X amount of Watts on your last ride while they were fighting off insurgents with automatic weapons.  Go ahead, and let me know how that works out.

I might seem a little brash here and I may seem a little insensitive.  Of course this does not apply to all people that participate in endurance sports (or any sport for that matter).  Yeah, we all think at some time or another when we compete that we're a badass for completing something or coming out victorious in an event.  The only thing I ask for is a little humility.  Remember to put what you're doing into perspective.

So, should I be mad with what the member said to me today?  Should I let it get to me to the point where I spend my precious time vomiting on my blog about it?  Not at all.  My own anger at this situation is symptomatic of exactly the type of thinking I outlined in the words above.  I'm just as guilty as he is of the "look at the badass I am" sickness.  At the end of the day, the best thing we can do is to examine ourselves before we speak.  Learn about the inner you and be honest with what you find.  Do this first, and then speak.

Ah, glad I got that off my chest!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


People need to get a clue.  I had a person come to me today asking if I could move a class that I teach to an earlier time that suited her better.  While I have absolutely no problem with trying to please anyone and everyone that takes the time to come to my class, I was outraged by her request.  She specifically sighted the fact that because of the class's time, she was stressed about being able to get a workout in, as she has to pick her kids up from daycare/school.  There are two blaring things wrong with her request:

1-She did not take into consideration the other "regulars" in the class.  These people come at the time that the class is scheduled, week after week, and have arranged their schedules so that they can be there.  They count on the class being that time each and every week, and have adapted what they do around it. And,
2-She has not realized the fact that the class is there as a service from the gym and is included in her membership.  Therefore, if she wishes to get more of a workout in, she should come 15 minutes before the class, use the weights and other equipment the gym provides, and do her own workout prior to the class.  She's a big girl, I think she can manage something on her own.

The real fault here lies in her inability to be self sufficient.  This recent storm and living in the dark and cold has taught me (as well as many others, I imagine) a whole lot about being self sufficient.  You have to adapt to what's presented to you, and if you can't, then you're shit out of luck.  I can understand her want of a "structured workout", and not wanting to go it alone, but somewhere deep down you have to summon the will power to learn and do a workout on your own.  She's motivated enough to come to the gym, certainly a 39 year old woman can be equally motivated to learn a few movements and train on her own for 15 whole minutes.

Perhaps I'm letting this get under my skin a little too much, and perhaps I should be more understanding, but with all that is going on in the Northeast and all the people who have lost so much but continue to persevere, I can't help but get angry at a person like this.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Starbucks Purgatory

So I can't be upset.  I talked to one of my best friends last night. He lost his house, many of his possessions, and just about any semblance of a normal life for the foreseeable future.  Through it all, he's been upbeat, and keeps on movin' on.  No tears, no complaining, just manning up and taking it as it comes.  I admire that.

For me, the power outage we've had has been somewhat therapeutic.  You realize what you need, what you don't need, and all those things we have that don't actually matter when it comes to survival.  If you've got water and shelter, you're just about halfway there.  Get some warm clothes and the occasional meal and you can actually live.  Sure there's no Facebook, no internet, and not a whole lot of comfort, but in reality, you can look forward to seeing the sun rise on the following morning.

I can't say that all this has had a transforming effect on my personality.  What I can say, however, is that it's served to reinforce those things that I knew deep down were integral parts of my personality.  More and more each day that passes I am sure that my values and core beliefs in what life should contain-those possessions that are needed and those that are not, how you see the world, and such-are correct and can be upheld.  In a lot of ways, I believe I would be happier living with less, on a mountain somewhere with the bear minimum.  Something about that gives me energy and makes me feel truly human.

I digress... Before this goes too deep into something about life and the human condition, I'll get back to the title of this post.  I'm sat in Starbucks-again-as I have just about every day since we've lost our power and water.  Mostly it's to get warm, check emails, and just veg out.  With what I've stated in the above paragraphs, I'm noticing more and more the trivial crap that goes on in the world as I sit here.  So funny how just a week ago we were all banding together, moving toward a common goal of sorts, and now, just like it was the days before the storm, we're back to the bullshit.  Just an observation and I'm not sure I'm getting through to my point (having coffee names and people yelling about politics in my ear as I write this has derailed my train of thought more than a few times).  Still though, this all makes me think about how nice it would be to get out of all this and live as we were intended to live.

So, here I sit in my little Starbucks Purgatory, yapping away on my keyboard and pondering life.  I wonder if this is what the founder of Starbucks had in mind when he set up shop...

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy (and the aftermath)

If you haven't heard, the Northeastern part of the US got ravaged by Hurricane Sandy about a week ago.  People have lost their lives, their houses, and the well-being in addition to losing their power and having many gas shortages.  It's getting colder now, and those of us without power are starting to feel the effects.

There are many things in this time that you feel thankful for, but most of all it's nice to be alive and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  Luckily, my family and I didn't lose our house, though we haven't had power since the storm, and lost our drinking water a few days after.  These things will return, and we've got the means to deal with it until they do.  Yeah it's frustrating, but a lot of people have lost a lot more.  We are fortunate to have a roof over our heads, warm clothing to put on, and money to go out and buy food.  Many at this point do not.

One of my best friends and his wife lost their entire house, all their belongings, and any normalcy they could have expected for the foreseeable future.  In addition, his family, which all live in the same area, lost their houses as well.  In some way or another, I don't know of anyone who lives in the surrounding area NOT to have been touched by a friend or loved one who has at least lost something.

And then you bring things to the week after.  People are waiting in lines for gas, so desperate that they are willing to fight and literally kill one another.  We have another storm approaching tomorrow night and still the very real possibility that many are going to be without power and even colder as the temperatures drop below freezing in the coming days.  Again, I'm thankful to have a roof over my head.

I'm not one to beg, or one to solicit in any way, but if there is the possibility that you can donate money, food, supplies, or clothing to anyone affected by this storm, please find the means to do so.  Like I said, my family and those close to me are fortunate, but many are not.

Friday, November 2, 2012

In search of...


So this stupid bitch of a hurricane, Sandy, has things up in the air as far as most "life" things are considered, so methinks what better time to get a little gnarly with my ass and build some new jumps in a secret place close to my home.  Ideally I'd like to find a spot deep in the woods with the potential to get by using pedal power only, but I realize, given my location, that I might actually have to travel a bit to find my ideal spot.  Nevertheless, the digging will commence tomorrow!

We lost our power on Monday during the storm, and haven't been back on the grid since.  Yesterday, while washing my hands, we lost clean water as a brownish sludge covered my then Palm Olive clean hands.  As I've said to Anne, people live like this many places in the world each and every day.  I (and hopefully my parents) can deal with a little bit of discomfort and inconvenience for the next week or so.  After all that we've been through, the calm and quiet nights really aren't all that bad.

So with the uncertainty of the power and water coming back on, and the general "life situations" dealt with, it's time to get out and have some fun.  I managed to get in a pretty cold, albeit fun kettle bell workout today (felt like Rocky getting ready to fight Ivan Drago) and tomorrow, as mentioned above, I'll attempt to get out with the shovel and build some new dirt jumps in a hopefully "double secret probation" type of spot.  I'm not sure what I'll come up with, or even if things will work, but screw it, Why the hell not!?

Over and out for now-whenever this power comes back on I'll be back to my normal life.  For now it's all about appreciating what we've got, and realizing how lucky we all are for having our lives and our families around us.  Let's play Monopoly bitches! :)