Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More Kid-Tastic Training

It's happened to every fitness geek at least a handful of times. Although the hours of his local chur--er, gym--are tattooed across his forehead, we will, on the rare occasions, show up at the gates of our own personal Emporium of Pain only to discover them locked shut. Maybe they're closed for renovations or inventory or pool-cleaning. Maybe they're observing Passover or the Chinese New Year. Or maybe the place has just plum closed up shop for good and we didn't notice all the signs posted about saying "We're Out of Business Tuesday!" because we were too darn focused on beating our PR for the clean and jerk.

Whatever the reason, we're caught unawares, and suddenly we have to do something an OCD fitness nut HATES to do: improvise. My wife and others who know me and the generally haphazard way in which I sometimes lead my life (my car is frozen in a perpetual state of "On The Way to a Goodwill Drop-Off") find it amusing that when it comes to my workouts I'm as immaculate and careful as an engineer making out one of those schematic charts. I know exactly what I'll be doing when and why; how much weight I'll be lifting for how many sets and how much rest and how it compares to past workouts and my eventual goals, short- and long-term.

So coming up against a locked gym door when I've got a workout planned provokes a response in me that's a bit like what Raymond Babbit does when he has to miss an episode of Wapner.

On a few such occasions, I've actually gone to another gym and shelled out up to 20 bucks for my hour-long workout. Weirdly, some gyms don't want you paying a day fee more than once, and will actually turn you away. I once BEGGED some teenage front-desk jockey to allow me the privilege of paying him 15 bucks to use the 24 Hour Fitness facility he was jealously guarding...and he refused. Unbelievable.

On this particular day, though, I wasn't up for that. I was short on time, as well, so I had to come up with a good way to get a resistance-training workout in.

Okay, I could have gone running or biking; I could have pounded on the 70-pound heavy bag that's hanging proudly in my garage; I could have gone to the local park and scared the bejesus out of the 5-year olds by running obstacle races through their plastic play-gym (which I sometimes do at 6 AM when no one else is there. It's way fun, by the way). But I'm fitness OCD, remember? I had a weight workout scheduled, and I was going to get one in, darn it!

So I summoned Kate, my 40-pound living, breathing resistance-exercise device to help me out with a little Kid-Tastic training in our backyard. In exchange, I promised she could shoot me with the garden hose, and, after taking a moment to tally the cost-to-benefit ratio of my proposal, she agreed.

First, I cranked out some dynamic stretching, just to get the blood pumping. Then I did some core work, a few planks, a few situps (darned if I can't stop doing that exercise despite all the cries of "unfunctional!" and "dangerous!"). Kate, meanwhile, was happily bouncing on our mini-trampoline (this is the one kind of workout where your Resistance Device needs to warm up as well). Anyway, all her bouncing around gave me an idea. Power exercises should precede sheer strength movements, as we all know, right?

So I grabbed her and did three sets of Overhead Kid Tosses. This is your basic kid-chucking movement, you know, the kind your uncle used to do when he saw you at the airport for the first time in six months: stoop down, grab the kid under the arms, stand and throw him or her as high as you can; catch them, and then lower them to the ground under control. Repeat for reps. Giggling, squirming, and screaming just make the exercise all the more functional. Dropping of the weight is highly discouraged, especially if you're on shaky ground with your spouse in the first place for enlisting your child's help in this sketchy endeavor.

I did three sets of ten, got a good sweat going, and, though my wife looked worried, Kate had a VERY good time.

I then pulled our old baby-carrier--good for up to sixty pounds--and strapped Kate to my chest. I got a good hold on a sturdy branch on a backyard tree and cranked out three sets of eight of Mixed-Grip Kid-Resisted Chinups. The squiggling mass strapped to my chest made the movement even more challenging, and rather more fun, than the 45-pound plates that usually serve the same function.

Rounding off my upper-body workout were Kid-Resisted Pushups: Kate perched on my back while I cranked out three sets of pushups. This was the most challenging movement for Kate, because it required her to balance on my back. At the conclusion of each set, she'd roll off and I'd do as many as I could using only my body weight. At this point, Kate realized that she could serve a secondary function as 'abusive drill sergeant,' much like Yoda in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, and began encouraging and sometimes berating me as I pushed away.

"Come on, Dad, what are you, weak?"

That was it for the day, and I was spent. Kate, to my surprise, wasn't: she wanted more, and getting to hose me off after the workout was a poor substitute for more Fun Laughing At Daddy.

Sometimes I see groups of Moms doing quarter-lunges in the park while holding onto the push-handles of their baby-strollers; they'll stop every three reps or so to coo over their babies; then they'll do a few quarter-squats and maybe quarter-pushups on their knees, and head home, convinced they've had a good workout.

I wish I could teach those classes, but since I'd probably get sued, this is most likely as close as I'll get.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

I'm a C.S.C.S. GOD!

So what if it’s been a million years since you’ve heard from me, you folks are going to fall at my feet when I hit you with THIS: I just got myself a new certification! From now on, when you see me in the ‘food supplement’ aisle at the Piggly Wiggly, mulling over protein/carb rations from behind my cat-eye glasses, you’re going to tell your shopping partner, in awestruck tones, “Look! There’s Andrew Heffernan, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist!” (You might also say “C.S.C.S.” if you’re into the brevity thing.)

The bottom line is that as of about 1:25 this afternoon, I’m six to eight times smarter than I was when I woke up this morning.

With that in mind, to better serve you, the following policy changes will be instituted here at dynamicfitness.us (whose name will be changed to “OneManFitnessThinkTank.com):

1) When asked questions about fitness, I will cite EVERYTHING, usually referencing Thomas R. Baechle or Roger W. Earle, co-authors of ESSENTIALS OF STRENGTH TRAINING AND CONDITIONING, usually by saying something like “Uncle Tommy says…” and “Rodger-Dodger postulates…” .

2) My training rates will now go up to 120.00 hourly IF purchased in packages of 20 or more. If you have to ask the price of a single session, honey, you can’t afford it.

3) I’ll now have my own monthly column in MEN’S FITNESS, called “Build Babe-Magnet Muscles,” and one in MEN’S HEALTH called “Make Monogamy Fun with Exercise!”

4) This blog will now be subscription-based only. So anyone reading will have to PAY from now on, per entry. Given my new status, I can’t imagine that will affect readership AT ALL. Right, guys? *

5) …Guys? Anyone still there??

In truth, I’m very happy to have passed this test. It’s the gold standard of fitness certifications—grab any newsstand fitness rag and you’ll see “C.S.C.S.” after just about every author’s name—and after having studied for and taken the test, it’s easy to see why: they put you through your paces in a way that many other certifying bodies do not. The test is a four-hour ordeal, covering some pretty darn in-depth information on anatomy, physiology, cardiovascular function, nutrition, biomechanics, testing procedures, etc, much of which was new to me when I was studying it.

But now that I’ve got it, you can be sure I’m going to flaunt the bejesus out of it.

I will take your questions now.

Andrew Heffernan, C.S.C.S.

* reminder: this is a joke.