Need to Measure my Traps

But I don’t know how.

trap-bar

So here is my update to my new trap bar purchase. I just read an article today about working up to 100 trap bar Deadlifts. It is very insightful. As an Olympic weightlifter and recovering powerlifter, I completely agree that this novel movement can do wonders for your [insert everything here]. I may need to buy bigger shirts here in the next few weeks. If you’d like to read for yourself…

https://www.t-nation.com/workouts/100-rep-trap-bar-workout

 

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When Yoga Gets in the Way

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I say this tongue-in-cheek. Yoga is not really in my way.

Summer-time means lots of vacations for everybody, including yoga teachers. So we end up substitute teaching for each other very often. I had 2 extra classes each of the past 2 weeks. Yet, I still got 5 really good days of working out on the weights. But I was toast by Monday. Everything was fried and banged up.

My goal is to take Mon & Tues as rest days since I teach and demonstrate fairly rigorous yoga classes those days. I needed it this time. My most brutal workout is Weds since I don’t teach again until Saturday. I focus on my chest that day and, besides heavy bench presses, I focus on yoga-related movements like dips, muscle ups, and deep pushups. But I get dumbbell and pec-deck flyes in there too. I don’t dare work my chest before teaching yoga. There were times when I was demonstrating chaturanga or upward facing dog and my triceps went into a full cramp. That is kind of embarrassing as a yoga teacher to suddenly drop out of a pose writhing in pain.

The problem is, when I teach yoga, I’m not really practicing yoga myself. I demonstrate some poses when I teach, but I’m mostly walking around, adjusting bodies, and observing safe alignment. I get just enough lengthening to feel good about myself. So I consider those active rest days.

The point I’m making is that we wander through busy lives seeking healthy minds and bodies and we shouldn’t make excuses to not do anything. Doing yoga doesn’t mean going hard all the time. It can be lengthening in front of the TV or even seated in your car in meditation. It doesn’t have to be a sweaty, all-out endeavor with yoga mats and tights. But the same is true with resistance and cardio exercise. You can always find a place to do some lunges or pushups. If you have access to weights, you may do a 5×5 of back squats and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long workout. Maybe jog around the block when you walk the dogs. Anything that gets your heart rate up is good. No excuses.

Don’t let life get in the way of living life

Off the workout plateau

trap-bar

Sometimes, a new piece of equipment is just what you need to bump you out of the ditch. I’ve had my 3rd day working out with this new trap bar that I bought off of Amazon. I’ve always been curious about it, but I’ve been a purist Olympic weightlifter and CrossFit’r for the past decade and was not very interested. I’m totally sold.

I’m using this as my warm-up for every workout. I leave it at 135 pounds and will do 10-15 deadlifts and a few shrugs to warm-up. Eventually, I’ll start to put some real weight on it and work in some sets. My body is already adapting to it.

I had mentioned a few posts back how bodybuilding has made its way back into my program. I’m probably doing too much right now, but I have some mandatory “active rest days” that help a lot when I teach yoga classes. I also keep to Ashiatsu massage every 3-4 weeks.

Here is my plan:
Warmup with light rowing, ski erg, or bouncing on a mini trampoline*
Trap Bar Deadlifts for a set of 10-15 emphasizing formCrossFit WOD including the bodypart emphasis for the day – goal is not to kill myself but to get my heart cranked up really high
Olympic Weightlifting with reps/assistance work on Weds & Sat, then heavy Thurs & Sun
Bodybuilding with Chest emphasis on Weds & Sat and Back on Thurs & Sun
Grace or Tabata Interval which is 30 reps of something or 8x 20 secs work with 10 secs rest*

*I used to be a runner from age 8 to 48. I injured my calf and it virtually ended my running career, which makes me sad. I’m using the trampoline barefooted to maybe get back into the running game.
*Tabata intervals are researched as the top way to increase cardiovascular health and performance. You can do almost anything. Wallballs, med ball slams, pushups, situps, pullups, push presses with a barbell, hand stand pushups, air squats, whatever!!

My next goals for the trap bar are:

  • Farmer carries around the block
  • Plyometric jumps
  • Overhead presses
  • More bent over rows
  • Lunges (?)
  • Heavy shrugs

 

 

Mis-Reading Yoga Energy

yoga-energy-studio

As a yoga teacher, some days are better than others. Most of the time, we are able to read, and feel, the energy given from the students in our classes. Honestly, I think the overall mood of the class depends a lot on the weather. One day, there was a big weather front coming in and the air was thick with humidity. I think the low atmospheric pressure was affecting moods and energy. I was personally not ready to practice yoga that day. So I started out very slowly for a class that is supposed to be high intensity. We eased into the high intensity part just so it wouldn’t be as uncomfortable.

The moon also affects our energy. It is one reason why Ashtanga yoga prescribes “Moon Days”, which occur during full and new moons. You don’t practice those days since its when we can feel the greatest gravitational pull. Mula Bandha can only do so much for us (haha!). Maybe its more psychological, but I definitely feel it on those days.

So last week, I taught a moderate intensity class meant for beginner-intermediate yogis. I felt a little off and didn’t think I was connecting very well with my class. I try my best to be playful and offer easier and harder modifications for many poses. I also play upbeat music that helps energize students. I do all I can to create an atmosphere that helps yogis find their flow. As we went along, I saw a lot of blank stares in their eyes. I heard groans and sensed lethargy as they transitioned into poses. When I offered advanced poses, I saw frustration and many not even attempting the harder variations. I was ready to write that class off as lost.

To my amazement, I got a huge response after the class. Several asked me about other classes I teach, like Rocket Yoga, and asked if they should try them. Others said they like my style and my yoga teaching voice. I heard some go on and on about my music playlist saying that it lifted them up when they were struggling. Others asked me more specifically about getting into a certain pose or how to overcome obstacles. I was so pleasantly surprised.

You can’t always judge a yoga class by the feel during class. I know when I was running a trail ultramarathon or in the midst of a hard CrossFit workout, I looked like death warmed over. But afterward, I was often ecstatic for having accomplished what I just did. I was proud of the hardships and wallowed in bliss. But you couldn’t tell that during the event. Ahimsa applies to yoga teachers too! The quality of non-judgement should be applied at all times. And I’m not looking for praise. But when it comes and we can celebrate together, then everyone is happy.

Oh Those Bodybuilders…

Arnold-Schwarzenegger-Physique-4

Without stereotyping myself, I’ve been into something called functional fitness for about a decade now. Actually, if you do sports, strongman, or anything that looks like training we did in the military, then you are doing functional fitness. You can pick apart the definition for functional all you want, but I’ve recently opened my mind to this more.

I love the performance based training that I do, but that kind of all-out training can be difficult to maintain without wearing yourself out both mentally and physically. In past months, I’ve adopted some of the old-school bodybuilding techniques that I was raised with. I’m really noticing tendencies and weaknesses from the training I’ve done. For instance, an incline dumbbell fly looks nothing like anything I’ve done for 10 years. You don’t have the benefit of leverage or momentum. Its just you and this crazy movement. I can feel tweaks in my shoulders where injury and weakness lie. And, I’m starting to feel that “pump” again that Arnold talked about in Pumping Iron. I’m not huge per bodybuilder standards, but I can feel that flush of blood into the muscles. It feels good…real good!

To tell you the truth, when I came to CrossFit, I was already pretty strong from bodybuilding and powerlifting. When they said to squat or deadlift, I was right there with everybody. When they said do pullups or heavy kettlebell work, I’m all over it. But when they said to do something for reps or something dynamic like box jumps or jump ropes, I wasn’t there at all. I was a top-fuel dragster that flamed out quickly. I wasn’t the stock car that was strong to a long-finish.

But what I’ve lost in finding a longer-lasting performance is the ability to strictly apply strength. I’ve lost what it meant to “feel” the muscle as it contracts. I mean, you really have to get your mind into the muscle itself. It feels really good to be in that space. And a great side effect is that my muscles are growing again.

Life is about balance. We try things, we learn, and we adapt. Find your place in life.

Don’t talk about Religion

leave it to beaver

They say in polite conversation, like in social settings or at a fancy dinner, you don’t bring up religion or politics. I think this is a good general rule of thumb.

But…

I’ll say something about it because I can.

I’m not ashamed of my beliefs. I celebrate Christmas and Easter; and I celebrate for reasons other than getting presents or eating the ears off of chocolate bunnies. So maybe that narrows it down.

I see a lot of social media posts where people say their religion is the outdoors. Or its something about themselves. Or whatever is under the sun. They hold it personally and say that others shouldn’t proselytize their beliefs.

Yet, they openly talk about Karma (Hindu), Zen (Buddhist), or some kind of Universalism. You know what? You are free to do those things. Just like its OK for me to talk about my beliefs. You can talk about what the Universe is telling you. You can talk about what your Tarot card reads today. You can say what the Zodiac signs are telling you. Its what you believe, and that’s what you should do.

But for me and my house, we know what we believe. I don’t adopt other faiths because of what I believe. I don’t allow astrology or cosmology to slip into my conscious thoughts. I don’t buy a Buddha just for fun and make an altar in my living room. I don’t have a big poster of Ganesha just because I think it is cool. I don’t sprinkle Holy Water because it is not something I do. I don’t even say “God Bless You” when someone sneezes because I would be abiding by a superstitious ritual. I don’t believe in superstition or karma or any of those things. I don’t adopt something just because Jennifer Aniston or some other celebrity does it. Its not what I do.

But you can do whatever you want. You believe whatever you want. I would just ask that if you are tolerant of all of those other beliefs, you should tolerate mine as well.

 

Throw Books

books in air

This may sound flippant, but throw the book at a perceived threat.

In the Army, we trained repetitively. We use the crawl-walk-run method of training. We go through every detail working up to a full fledged assault. The same is true when I wrestled. I’ve probably done every single move you can think of hundreds if not thousands of times. You do this to create muscle memory. Instead of thinking about it, you do it instinctively.

We did Immediate Action drills when on Infantry patrols. If there was a far-ambush, where you face Indirect Fire by artillery or mortars or sniper attack, you seek cover and evade. But in a near-ambush, you have no choice but to go directly into the fight as fast and as hard as you can. I won’t give details, but when you set up a near-ambush, you don’t give options for escape. So the only option is to go to the enemy.

When I’m sitting in church, I have located 2 or 3 thick hymnals, which are big, hard song books. Someone meant to do harm will focus on the speaker up front or maybe someone in particular who they are after. They aren’t expecting me to fling heavy books at full speed at their head. If you scoff at this, have someone throw a 2 pound book at your face and see how it feels. Now, imagine the whole congregation throwing books, shoes, or whatever they could find at the offender. Believe me, that person is going down. And then people need to rush that person and neutralize the threat.

book to head

Wherever you are, think of a few heavy objects you can grab quickly should something happen. If you are a person of action, make sure you are always in a place where you can be proactive. If you need to lunge at someone, be where you can be effective.

Most importantly, we have to be aware of our surroundings. Know the exits. Know places of cover. And know what weapons you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones. If every single person thought this way, we’d be much safer. Rehearse in your mind what you might do. Rehearse how to do CPR. Rehearse rolling out of bed to the side and preparing to fight. Rehearse crawling into the shelter during a tornado.

The worst thing you can think is that it will never happen to you. Most incidents happen in seconds. And help is usually at least 5 minutes away. So YOU need to be the one who protects those you love. An attacker expects an easy target. He is expecting sheep and not lions. Be the lion! Be a whole pride of lions! Don’t cower in the corner or under the desk. That is what they are expecting. Stand up for yourself and be brave.