Thursday, November 15, 2012

Strength Training - Mind Over Matter

Do I have something interesting for you today. I recently read the results of an experiment, titled: “Maximizing Strength Training Performance Using Mental Imagery”. Now imagining a ‘win’ is nothing new, not by any means. But this study took it to a different level.

The break it down without all the scientific terms and information; a control group was told to do bicep curls with no weight in their hands, 3 times per week, for 8 weeks. The experimental group was told to do the same thing, but imagine a heavy weight in their hands (still holding nothing in reality). The experimental group gaining between 32-44% increase in strength over the control group!

That’s a minimum of about ⅓ strength gain just by imagining the muscle working harder! What should you take away from this? Simple, imagine you’re always doing more than you are, really think about each muscle as it activates, and try to get it to work harder.
Or on the adverse, imagine you can do something, even after failing it. Picture yourself performing the exercise from an internal, first person view, then picture it from an external, third person view.

Imagine yourself working hard, and you will work hard.

If anyone is interested in reading a .pdf copy of the study, let me know. I have it saved, and can send it to individuals.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Minimalist Running

I recently came across a nice brochure for barefoot running, publish by Vibram, for their FiveFingers shoes. This is specifically for FiveFingers, as the guide states, but in reality this is good information for any types of minimalist shoes. The foot exercises are fantastic for anyone, no matter the shoe type. The other tips they give are awesome for anyone using shoes without a traditional 'high heel'.

The main thing I want people to note, the proper ball strike while running. It's on page 9 of the attached brochure. This is a VERY hard thing to explain to people, it's not a toe strike, it's a ball strike. Vibram did a great job of explain the details of it.

Vibram FiveFinger Barefoot Running Guide

Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween Resolution

So, every year I hear the same thing; New years resolutions. This is, as of right now, this post, a thing of the past!

This year I want to try something new, and I want everyone to get into it. This year we are setting a Halloween resolution! Here is the plan, I want everyone to make a goal, on that will be achievable by Christmas. Your goal can be anything reasonable. A few example could be lose 10 pounds, be able to run 5 km non-stop, set a new time on your run, bike or swim, be able to do 10 push ups, do a muscle up, be able to bench 200 lb, etc, etc.

Something you might be asking, why now? Simple, this time of the year is always busy for people. So if you are able to set a goal, and reach it during this busy time, you can do it at any time!

How it’s going to work. I’d like everyone to reply either on this blog, or in the Facebook Tough Mudder group, let me know your goal. I’m posting this now so you’ve got some time to think about it prior to Halloween. Each week I’ll post on the blog, asking for a progress update. This can be as indepth as you want, you can write about everything that’s happened every day, or you can post saying “things are going well”. I’m willing to offer any sort of advice, if asked.

So get a goal in mind, let me know what you’re thinking. The official start date will be Halloween, but it never hurts to start today!


PS. I’d really like to hear from everyone, I’d love to have a lot of communication going, to help people stay on track.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cold Weather Cardio

Well, as some of you may, or may not have, noticed, it snowed! So the last post I was talking about adding running to your routine. Very important for getting in shape for tough mudder. But with the cold weather, running outside becomes hard for some. Here are some things to help you out.

First off, with outdoor running, stay covered enough that you’re a little chilly before you start. A bad idea is laying up and sweating, once you start sweating it’s very hard for your body to return to a regular temperature in the cold. If you are doing a 10:1 (or any ratio) run and walk, it’s a good idea to keep things like a toque for walking, removing it for the run. Or keeping your hands in your pocket during your walking period.

Your other option of course is indoor cardio. As I know not everyone has access to a track, there are alternatives. A few options would be swimming (indoor), stairs, stationary bike, skipping, burpees (I know, I know), and many others! Today I’m going to focus on a stair workout that can either replace your running during the cold days, or if you’re used to a lot of cardio, it can be added onto your running.

Stair Workout
The layout is very similar to the running routine posted last week. The main difference being stairs can be very hard on the joints, and knee specifically. Try to land as soft as possible, listen to each landing and with each landing try to remove as much vibration as possible. It’s much harder on the muscles to land soft, but muscles recover quick, and recover strong. Bones and joints can take permanent damage from things like a heavy landing with each stair. To give an example; I, as a 91 kg (200 lb) man, can land with so little noise that many a time I have scared people because they couldn’t hear or feel me coming. It has nothing to due with weight, it has to do with being ninja.

Day 1: 20 stories of slow and steady stairs
Day 2: 10 stories of quick stairs
Day 3: 5 stories of sprinting stairs.

Very similar to running from last post. So 1 story would be from floor 1 to floor 2. You do not need to find a 20 story building, if you only have your house and basement, that’s fine. Run up, and down (both ways, landing as silent as possible). Each story UP counts as 1. So in a 1 story building, it’s 20 sets of stairs. In a 5 story building it would be 4 sets (20 stors up in total). For day 1, the slow and steady stairs, hit every stair on the way up. On day 2, you can choose between each stair, or skipping a stair on the way up. On day 3, skip a stair with every step, you should be focused on speed and silence.

Just to be clear, the 3 days can be done any time during the week, preferably not 1 after the other, ideal leave 24 hours rest between.

Enjoy your cardio, it’s going to be a very large player in Tough Mudder! Running, stairs, or otherwise.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Workout - Running

Practice running. This will be a huge part of Tough Mudder. That being said, you don’t need to be a  superstar runner right now. I hear a lot of people say they don’t want to run because they aren’t good at it... Of course not, very few people are good runner without practice. So, this week we are going to add running into your workout, to help build of some cardio strength and endurance.

The term cardio is one I use a lot. It is short for cardiovascular, which essentially means the ability of your heart to pump blood, your blood to absorb oxygen and your muscles to utilize oxygen from your blood. See why I just say cardio? Cardio endurance is your ability to continually go through the process described above (meaning long distance cardio), while cardio strength is directed more towards your bodies ability to do things powerfully (think short distance runners).


Some tips for running to make it a more enjoyable activity.

- Breath! This is huge. I have seen people who hate running turn to people who run daily just due to breathing. Find yourself a good breathing pattern, breath in through your nose as much as possible. Then focus on your breathing, running, or any other type of cardio, can be made into almost a meditation if you focus on breathing. In your mind, tell yourself “in” and “out” as your breath, clear your mind of other things (except your surroundings, don’t get hit by a car, please).

- Get proper footwear. For me, this means a good pair of toe shoes, this isn’t true for everyone. But footwear can change everything when it comes to running. Make sure to have proper running shoes, cross trainers (aka basketball shoes) would also be acceptable. But do not use ‘skate shoes’ or dress shoes, or other various shoe types. You can really hurt yourself this way.

- Music and/or a running partner. Having someone, or something, there to help distract you is a great way to take your mind of the difficulty or discomforts of running. If you are running with music, make sure you can still hear things around you, once again, don’t get hit by cars. If you have a partner, it’s great to have conversations, but you will find that the throat will dry out quicker due to this. Bring a bit of extra water if you aren’t used to running with a partner.

- Apps. That’s right, there is an app for that. I personally use “cardio trainer” it’s a very simple app, not a lot of options, and basically just has a GPS and record your workouts. Very simple, and I’m sure it has more options, but that’s what I like. Endomondo is another good one. There is a ‘pro’ version available for a price. (If you are on android and go NOW, that price is $0.25). This app has ALL sorts of options, allowing for a much more immersive experience than cardio trainer. I’ve seen it used by a lot of people, and they all enjoy it. If you’re looking for a little more fun from your running app, check out Zombies, Run! this app will play a game with your gps. A game involving zombies! It has levels, and increases in difficulty, causing you to run in different directions in order to dodge zombie hordes. Very neat idea, check it out if you’re looking for a little extra fun.

The Actual Workout

Here’s the plan this week. You’re going to run! 3 day a week, this can be added to every week. But not just any running;

Day 1: 40 minutes slow and steady run
Day 2: 20 minutes of quick running
Day 3: 5 minutes of sprints

Never fear, a description is here:
Day 1, if you can, keep a constant pace for 40 minutes. This should be a pace that is slow enough that you would still be able to hold a conversation without gasping for breath. However it should be fast enough that you can’t rap along to eminem while running. If you are unable to run 40 minutes steady, not a problem, run for 10 minutes, walk for 1 minute. This is known as a 10:1, and used very commonly. If this is still too difficult, run for 5 minutes, walk for 1 (5:1). If this is still too difficult, you are running too fast. Slow it down, this should be a nice easy job, but should wind you by the end of the 40 minutes. If you are using either the 10:1 or 5:1, the total run time should equal 40 minutes. (so 4 reps of 10:1, or 8 reps of 5:1).

Day 2, what do I mean by quick running? Simple, at about 15-18 minutes, you should feel like you’re unable to finish. This will be difficult, and mentally taxing. Make sure you aren’t sprinting. You want to be having a hard time around 15-18 minutes, but still able to finish the 20. Though it should be very hard.

Day 3, this one is the most complicated of the runs. What I want you doing is sprinting at a 1:2 ratio. Meaning sprint all out for 1 minute, then walk for 2 minutes. Repeat 5 times for a total of 5 minutes run time. If you find this too easy, change it too a 1:1, meaning sprint 1 minute, walk 1 minute. If it’s still too easy 2:1, switch to 1 minute sprint, 30 second walk.

You dictate pace. I can’t stress this enough. Running will only be as hard or easy as you make it, if you’re new to running, most of this will feel tough! Stick to it, read the tips, and most of all, remember. Your attitude towards running is what you’ll get out of running. If you look forward to a nice run where you can shut your mind off for a bit, and enjoy. You’ll enjoy. If you dread every moment leading to the run, you’ll dread the run.

Please post in either the comments, or the Tough Mudder Facebook Group, if you are adding these runs to your workouts. For those who want a little extra, do the runs, and last weeks workout together.

Sunday, September 23, 2012


As per always, make sure to warm up a little prior to working out. 5-10 minutes of walking/jogging/running is a good way to get a quick, full body, warm up. Right to the point, here’s the workout:

3/6/9 - Mountain Climber (per leg) - eg.
3/6/9 - Body row - eg.
3/6/9 - Alternating dead bug (per side) - eg.
3/6/9 - Bench squats - eg. (ignore the bar, this will be done with body weight).

I’d like you to try and complete this workout twice this week (at least). It’s going to feel like a step up from last week, but don’t worry, you’ve got it!

Too hard?
Mountain climber - hold onto a bench and lift legs to elbows, so your body is at a 45 (ish) degree angle to the ground.
Body row - the more upright you are, the easier it is. Simply find yourself an angle that is comfortable.
Alternating dead bug - hold your arms and legs straight up for 3/6/9 seconds. No movement involved.
Bench squats - Higher chairs/benches are easier.

Too easy?
Mountain climber - either speed up, or attempt to get your knee past your elbows
Body row - The closer you are to laying on the floor, the harder this exercise becomes. Change the angle until you find an angle that is a challenge.
Alternating dead bug - Instead of alternating, you bring down both arms and legs at the same time. As shown in the video.
Bench squats - lowering the height of the chair/bench will make this a harder exercise.

Important things to keep in mind!
Mountain climbers, try not to let your back to round, keep your spine's natural curvature, and keep your hips lower than your shoulders, don’t allow them to pop up, and sit really high.
Body row, keep a strong core throughout the whole movement, don’t allow the lower back to round or arch.
Alternating dead bug, imagine if you will, your belly button. Now imagine it trying to meet your spine for dinner, your belly button is a big fan of your spine, in fact, Mr. Belly Button wants to date the spine. What am I getting at? Try to draw your belly button into your spine, let those two cuddle their problems away. The entire time you’re doing this movement keep your lower back against the floor. Do not allow an arch in your back, at all.
Bench squats, refer to image below, the only difference being that you won’t be holding a bar, just doing body weight. Also, keep your core (everything around your belly/back strong, and in good posture).

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Vibram Five Fingers

If you're interested in a specific pair and would like to see my individual review, feel free to scroll down and check them out.

About 2 years ago I attempted what was, at the time, considered the new fitness “fad”. Barefoot running shoes, also known as minimalist shoes. The basis of the shoe is simple, to minimize the contact between your foot and the ground, while still providing enough protection to prevent rocks/slivers/glass/etc from piercing the skin.

I went in head first, purchasing myself a pair of Vibram Five Fingers (, or more commonly known as “those toe shoe things”. I fell in love in minutes, as soon as I tried them on in the store and walk around, I thought ‘where have these been all my life?!’.

Now I made one large mistake, I treated them as regular shoes. As soon as I got home I went outside for a 7km run. I wanted to feel how every surface felt, I ran to a park in the sand, through a field, on cement, on asphalt, on gravel, everything! The thing I didn’t realize, you need to ease into them, multiple websites and review recommend no more than 30% of your daily mileage in toe shoes when you first wear them. I did about 80% of my daily mileage in them...

When used properly, these minimalist shoes, namely the toe shoes, will change the way you walk and run. Instead of landing on your heel, you’ll learn to land on the ball of your foot (also known as a toe strike). This puts a lot more impact on the muscles, but removes a lot of impact from hitting joints directly, which is a good thing. But, the first time you wear them this can, and most likely will, be a huge strain on the muscles. Walking isn’t as noticeable, but when I first ran in Five Fingers, I felt muscles working in ways I’ve never experienced in the past. All sorts of stabilizer muscles working over time to teach my foot to work the way it’s naturally meant too. The only reason it hasn’t worked this way, is shoes with such large, padded, heels. Moral of the story, ease into your new shoes.

Individual Product Review
I’ve purchased myself many a pair of Five Finger since, because I’m a little bit obsessed with them, and want an indoor pair, an outdoor pair, and of course I need different pairs for exercising than I do for general use (not really, but it helps me sleep at night). So here is my reviews of the shoes I have worn myself. I personally do not enjoy wearing toe socks, because I can feel them between my toes, I don’t find the same sensation with shoes.

These right here are the ‘basic’ model of toe shoes. Made for general after sport and light running activities. I personally find these to be my favorite overall pair, they were the first pair I ever bought, and I continue to purchase them as the pair I wear at work (I’ve only gone through 1 pair in the last 2 years, which is awesome). They provide very little impact resistance on the foot during running, so be aware of that if you plan on running in them.
Fun fact: KSO stands for keep stuff out, and for the most part it really works, the only time I’ve had issues is when my foot is underwater and submerged completely in mud; which for some strange reason has happened more than once.

Now known as Trek LS, the only difference is the version sold now have laces. The pair I purchased did not have laces. These are a good shoes for warmth and comfort. The cross grip on the bottom makes them great for minor rock climbing and trekking. The grip also provide a bit of a massage when stepping on uneven surfaces, which is a nice bonus.

This is probably my least favorite pair I’ve purchased. I may have had a defective pair, but these are the only Five Fingers I’ve ever owned that have caused blisters, and I got some nasty ones. The shoe itself is very similar to KSO, just with different impact areas, which did make it more comfortable for running (minus the blisters, but as I said, I think it was a defect pair, lots of areas stuck out inside the shoe).

Be forewarned, try these on first! Even if you’ve already bought Five Fingers. These fit significantly tighter, mainly around the toes, than any other pair I’ve purchased. They are also, by far, the warmest pair of Five Finger. I did once try wearing them in minus 20 weather, and the rubber on the bottom froze. So while I would not suggest them for winter, they are great for cold water sports, or chilly fall nights. Try them on first, they will be a different size than normal. I know I already said this, but really keep this in mind!

The ‘toe boot’. I love these thing, they are very comfortable. They are exactly the same make as the Trek, using the same leather, same grip on the bottom, only difference is the fact that it covers the ankle a bit. I would not suggest using these for hiking or trekking. The top of the boot is not tight, leaving a lot of space for things to get in. But these make a great shoe for just walking around. They are for sure my favorite just ‘wondering around’ pair of shoes.

These are another pair to try on first, they fit a little tighter than most pairs of five fingers. I really enjoyed running in these, by far my favorite running pair so far. Since they take no damage from water (like all five fingers) it makes them a great pair to wear to rocky beaches. They dry quick, and they have good padding on the ball of the foot, so you won’t feel much of the rocks.

My newest pair, I haven’t worn them much. One thing's for sure, these are by far the most ‘rugged’ pair. They have a very thick feeling sole (though actually not thicker than the others), which awesome traction. Though I’ve only had them for a bit, they grip everything extremely well. They also have a ‘rock guard’ that I’ve yet to see in use. When I take them out for a run I’ll make sure to run on gravel. The area the rock guard is in, is the only area I’ve ever had an issue with rocks actually hurting, so that’s a nice addition. The rock guard also provides much more arch support than any of the other pairs. Spyrion is for sure the most different pair of Five Fingers. They feel much different than all the other pairs I’ve tried on, which could be great for some.