At a certain point in the day on Sundays, especially, I realize if I haven’t gotten a morning run in there is a chance I won’t do anything. So today I groaned heavily, wrote a workout plan and did the following (in sets, not all at once):
50 leg raises
50 curls (with 25-lb dumbbells)
I did the simple, non-push-up burpee, which still incorporates what amounts to a jumping squat, so that was a shitload of squats.
Which is an unpleasant set of words to pack in one phrase, I guess.
Verdict: good calisthenic workout, would use in a hotel room (sans curls) or in jail, I guess.*
Still have all sorts of anger issues and a need to prove myself, but at least I’m too tired to worry about those right now.
*Prison workouts is a whole Thing among home workout/raw/primitive fitness type folks–which honestly makes a lot of sense. Guys come out of lockup racked all to hell and not all facilities have weights anymore. You can, it turns out, get a whole hell of a lot done fitness-wise in a very small space. When you live in one of the most wintry cities in the US like I do, getting out and running every day just isn’t always the best option.
If my blog subjects boil down to history, murder and fitness, I guess that’s okay. Whatever, here’s a switch-up from the previous post. This is about how I sometimes like to do workouts designed to be entirely divisible by the number five.
This is called making my weirdness work for me. I’d stop short of saying I’m obsessed with the number 5. I think I just like the neatness of dividing and multiplying with it.
Anyway, I’m a weirdo and here’s the workout I did tonight. This isn’t a suggested workout. In fact, maybe you shouldn’t try it, since I enjoyed it partly because I set up the whole weird divisible by 5 deal. All that said, I was bushed when I finished.
I bought The Rack about a year ago. It spends a good part of the week holding up my and my wife’s “clothes not dirty enough to wash that we might wear again this week–in a pinch.” However, I use the damned thing every week for its intended purpose, and I love it for that. Go here to see non-semi-dirty clothes hanger uses for The Rack.
The Perfect Weighted Vest is not exactly perfect. I bought this to have maximum poundage (40 lbs when all slots are filled), but discovered pretty quickly the design of this vest is such that any kind of fast-moving, complex bodyweight move while wearing it is rendered tougher than it should be because the vest tends to fold and curl. The problem seems to be the flap below the velcro clasp. That said, it does its job, for the most part, which is simply to add weight to make bodyweight stuff even harder than it should be. I’ll probably get a less flappy vest in the future but this is fine for now.
What? They’re dumbbells. I used two, loaded with 35 lbs.
I set my phone’s timer app for 20 minutes. The vest was loaded with 20 lbs and I wore it for the whole workout. After a 2-minute warmup, I started the timer and did the following:
I finished the last reps of the final set of Arnolds (named, yes, after Ah-nuld Schwarzenegger) as the timer beeped. This added up to 25 dips, 50 burpees, 25 curls, and 25 Arnolds. All while wearing the 20-lb. vest.
The vest combined with the enforced 20-minute limit made all the difference, I’m certain–especially with burpees. Once I managed to secure the velcro straps well enough that they wouldn’t come undone, every set of 5 felt progressively more brutal and taxing.
And it was all, including the enforced 20-minute time, divisible by five.
When I started exercising regularly again at 43, I quickly learned whatever I thought I knew about fitness in my teens and twenties–and I thought I knew a great deal–was either hilariously limited or just plain wrong.
That is, I had some hardened ideas that were actually working against me. One was the idea that it wasn’t a workout unless you were busting ass for at least 30 minutes. No wonder I’d think about getting back in shape in my late twenties and throughout my thirties, consider how much work I might have to do, and usually decide I had other stuff that might need my attention.
Once exercise did become a habit again, I had to learn that just for purely practical reasons sometimes a workout needed to be short, but hopefully intense. Especially if I wanted to work out frequently. Otherwise, at some point my body would just stall and say NOPE, WE’RE DONE. (It’s done that to me, so I speak from experience.)
Once I learned to love the fast-paced, brief workout, I discovered there are a ton of good resources for them online. Many are CrossFit-related, but there’s also the excellent 12-Minute Athlete, a frequently updated blog that plainly lays out well-balanced 12-minute HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts with simple, pleasing graphics and videos.
All of this is preamble to note the 12-minute workout I did tonight. Even though I’m making it a point to give a shout-out to 12-Minute Athlete, I actually found this on a CrossFit site. Here it is as posted there:
Complete as many rounds as possible in 12 mins of:
10 Kettlebell Swings, 24/16 kg
12 Air Squats
I used a 70-lb kettlebell but otherwise did the workout as directed and completed 5 rounds, adding up to 40 burpees, 50 swings and 60 squats. And when I was done, I did all the sweating, for a while. It felt like an excellent workout both for the range of muscles hit and for the level of tiredness I felt when done.
I think my point is to recommend to anyone who might read this that if you’re stuck in the old “I MUST DO THIS FOR AN ETERNITY OF SUFFERING” mindset as I once was, well, there are definitely excellent alternatives.
I’m finally working on a 6-7 day a week workout cycle. I’d had ambitions to experiment with 100 days straight doing something, but quickly realized that was an amusingly dumb idea. I need to find a certain kind of pace and balance before I murder myself that way. I sometimes like exhausting 90 minute cardio and strength something or others, and no way in hell I can do that for 6 days straight. I may be near that, I don’t know. I mean, I’m in good shape but I’m also still kind of old and fat, so, you know, caveats apply. Today I did do something that was a little different for me and it felt like a pretty (here’s that b-word again) balanced thing to do.
If I’m doing a circuit of bodyweight or kettlebell exercises I normally plan them out informally ahead of time, either off the top of my head or based on something I’ve seen on sites I visit, like 12 Minute Athlete or FitnessBlender. I write out what I plan to do, set my phone’s stopwatch and get busy. Today, rather than focus on reps, I decided to set the timer for 20 minutes then see what I could get done during that time, stopping when the timer buzzed no matter where I was. This wasn’t intended to be any kind of major workout–because I might lose motivation tomorrow if I slammed it today. Like I said, I’m old.
I ended up feeling pretty good and deciding I’d use this as a maintenance workout (as in I just wanted to sweat and work a bit, but didn’t jump up a level) again. Here’s what happened
Burpees-8, 8, 8, 6, 6 (36)
Push-ups-12, 12, 12, 8, 6 (50)
Dumbbell curls, 2 x 25 lbs-6, 6, 6, 5, 5 (28)
Assisted pull-ups (see this page, level 3A)-8, 8, 6, 6, then 2 with strict form, no assist
Two-handed swings with a 53-lb kettlbell-12, 12, 12, 10, 10.
This ended up being a faster-paced workout than I sometimes do. I was sweating like a pig who just heard the farmer’s wife complaining she’s out of bacon. I think I could up the speed a good deal in the future and add sets. It hit most everything, though, and I don’t feel like completely flopping for the rest of the night.
As an aside–I hate most of the fitness-related writing I find online. I’m not talking about sports journalism; that’s a totally different animal. I’m talking about bloggers and various posts for websites, some of them really popular. Too often the tone is far too “that one gym coach you had in high school whom you plotted to blow up his house.” You know–it’s either frustrated drill sergeant or belittling jock. As in, “HEY PUNK LOOK WHAT I CAN DO CAN YOU DO THIS PUNK WELL, CAN YOU????”
I really want to avoid that when I do choose to write about fitness. If many of the people who take on that sort of authorial tone (honestly, this also applies to a lot of Youtube videos about working out–hell, maybe most of them) truly cared about helping others learn about the benefits of fitness, they’d be way more inviting and accommodating. Maybe shaming a person struggling with their weight and appearance will work for a time, and maybe it’s exactly what some people think they deserve, but it never worked for me, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’ll do my best to not link that sort of thing, save for amusement value.
I’ll try to keep this brief because sometimes these fitness posts are really just for me.
I took a day off from exercise yesterday because I’m just kind of used to not working out, running etc. on Wednesday. It just makes sense. Today I decided to see what I could fit in a half hour. Here’s what I did. I used a 70 lb. kettlebell, 25 lb. weighted vest (for the push-ups only) and two 25 lb dumbbells.
5 sets x 10 reps of KB Swings
5 x 10 push-ups
5 x 10 burpees
5 x 10 Arnold dumbbell presses
I did the above circuit style (1 set of swings then 1 set of push-ups and so on; repeat) and damned if it didn’t take exactly 30 minutes.
I don’t know how I went from 4 years ago being a guy who thought about exercising then shook my head at the foolishness of the idea (a mindset that can keep a lot of seriously overweight people from even starting, I’d bet) to being that guy who gets anxious if I skip more than a day, but that’s where I am now. This weekend I did nothing and this morning I realized the inactivity was driving me crazy. So here’s the (first? I’m considering a two workout day today) effective and simple nonsense I did this morning, between taking my wife to work and getting my youngest kid on the bus:
50 burpees, ladder style (10, rest, 9, rest, etc. down to 1).
50 push-ups in one set of 20 then two sets of 15. You can throw a push-up into a burpee and I considered that but I think the push-ups are more effective done as a separate exercise.
15 pull-ups, done in a modified ladder–4, 3, 2, 2, 2, 1.
20 burpees–wearing a 25 lb. weighted vest. Also ladder style–5, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.
In the future I’ll speed it up and add reps and planks. This took 34 minutes but I bet I could finish it in less than 30. I might have done mile runs instead of burpees but situational and time constraints wouldn’t permit (another point in favor of the burpee–it can be a time-saver).
I may have mentioned this before but it bears repeating: if you’re going to do burpees (and again, this is just my workout, and is not intended as instruction in any way) with a weighted vest, make sure your vest has a comfortable snug fit and is relatively short in front. I made the mistake of buying a full-fitting vest (it looks like a flak jacket) and it’s great for push-ups, torso dips and runs, but the motions used in a burpee make it bunch and flap a little, which is pretty annoying.
Yeah, I have to accept I can’t commit to writing about working out all the time. Two main reasons: my workouts are often variations on a theme, therefore kinda-sorta same/same; I find other things more interesting. I definitely find a wide variety of fitness-related subjects fascinating, so I think the tack I’ll take when blogging about fitness will be more along the lines of covering whatever’s interesting to me at the time (strongman stuff, kettlebell lore, whatever).
That said, here’s what I did recently:
50 burpees, ladder style (10 reps, 9, 8, etc…)
5 sets of 5 reps of kettlebell cleans & jerks with two 53 lb bells (5 x 5)
5 x 5 kettlebell squats, same weights
4 x 8 reps of plain old curls with two 25 lb dumbbells, then 1 set of six reps.
I threw in three 1-minute planks. It felt like a pretty good workout.
January 9 (today)
Wearing a 25 lb weighted vest, I followed the following pattern:
4 x 5 burpees–burpees in a weighted vest are something else, hence the low number of reps. I recommend them, but you need a good, close-fitting vest. Mine’s not great.
5 x 10 kettlebell swings, with a 70 lb bell.
Burpees. Again. Same as above.
4 x 5 reps of torso dips. Add a weighted vest and these are bastards.
5 x 10 reps of “Arnolds” dumbbell presses with two 25 lb dumbbells.
I took off the vest and did two sets of 10 burpees, two sets of 10 dips, the rest of the workout the same as above. What’s funny is looking at it now, it’s a good, tiring workout, but at the time I felt like I could do more.
The couple behind my favorite online fitness resource often mentions feedback from people who like their videos about hating burpees. Anyone who’s ever done a few understands that, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel they’re a genius move in the world of bodyweight exercises. A burpee hits almost everything. And damned if you don’t feel like you have seriously done something when you’ve finished a set.
Then there’s the fact that they’re easily one of the most portable exercises imaginable, which is why if you read up on prison fitness (a weirdly fascinating subject I may cover in a future fitness post) you always read about burpees. I love running for my cardio, but since I’ve been living in a wintry climate and discovered that it’s just kind of a dumb idea to run in the ice and snow sometimes (though I still occasionally do it), burpees have been a lifesaver. Once I began incorporating the damned things into workouts, I found I could go 10 days between runs and then out of the blue do 4 miles at a fairly reasonable pace. Granted, my fairly reasonable pace as a runner is other runners’ fast walk, but still–I’m talking about endurance, here.
As miserable as they make me, I’m a fan of the burpee, and will include them in workouts as long as I’m able to do one.
While the usual disclaimers about my workouts merely being a record of what I’ve done apply, I will say, in closing, that you should learn to do a goddamned burpee. For your health.
Tonight I’ve edged back toward making daily workouts daily again! Yay, the cold, hard universe smiles upon my puny efforts at delaying the grave! Anyway, yesterday’s workout was pretty thorough, so I thought I might lay off today. But around mid-afternoon I found myself doing pull-ups. Only 10 total, in a 4-3-2-1 descending ladder. I’ve felt bad in the past about the fact I never do more than 5 reps of pull-ups in a set, but then I looked in the mirror and remembered I’m a damned 195 pound man closer to 50 than 40 and I can divide my sets and reps however the hell I want. Tonight, I did a brief burpee workout, also sort of ladder-style–push-up burpees in 15-14-11-10 descending ladder, for a total of 50. As an aside, I also discovered the etymology of the word burpee, (a word redolent of certain body functions to the juvenile-minded like me) and it turns out every con’s favorite prison cell workout is named after some guy! Quoth the Oxford Dictionary: “[burpees are] named after Royal H. Burpee, American psychologist. The original usage was Burpee test, in which a series of burpees are executed in rapid succession, designed to measure agility and coordination.” See? They’re not named after what you do after 50 of the damned things jostle your innards enough to, uh, let off steam, as it were.
Since the first one went on a bit, let’s make today’s dumb workout post brief. I don’t pretend there’s any coherence to this one other than I’ve been in a day on/day off pattern and even though that’s 4 days a week, it feels like slacking, so I needed a whole body workout.
Part the First, in which our hero* addresses cardio, chest and arms:
“Arnolds” with 2 25-lb dumbbells, x 10. (Link goes to a video demonstration of “Arnolds,” which are, believe it or not, not named after that football-headed cartoon character, but the former governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
I did four of each set in a circuit, for a total 40 burpees, 60 push-ups and 40 Arnolds. Or Ah-nulds, if you prefer the old hacky nod to the gov’s Austrian brogue.
Part the Second, in which our hero** addresses the need for an all-over body burn:
I did the workout above, as demonstrated by one of my favorite online fitness folks, Daniel, who runs the awesome FitnessBlender.com with his lovely wife, Kelli. In the interest of full disclosure, I used a single 53-lb kettlebell (I’ve switched between the 53 and a 70 before) and added a minute’s pause at the middle of the tape, figuring I began the thing already pretty sweaty and tired. I love this FitnessBlender workout in particular because it’s a time-saver and it hits all the good stuff.
Parts 1 and 2 together timed out to 30 minutes.
Plug I give every time I mention them–I can’t recommend Fitness Blender strongly enough if you, like me, have personal and budgetary constraints that make you wary of the gym. I prefer to run 2-5 times a week if I can but winter in New England can make that a tough sell–a resource like the one provided by these guys is invaluable in that situation, as well.
The usual disclaimer: I’m essentially using blog posts like this as notes for an ongoing project. This isn’t meant to be instructional and before you try any of it, you should eat a candy bar and think about your life and know that I’m just some Internet idiot, and I like to eat donut holes and drink scotch in addition to working out. I won’t claim to tell you what to do fitness-wise but I can totally instruct you on those things. (Hey, this whole blog warns you about the “unreliable narrator” part of this deal, sparky.)
For real education on these kinds of things, you should park yourself at FitnessBlender.com for a day and absorb their videos and plans like they’re your Jedis of gym stuff.