By Eric Jackson
Occasional “Selfie” keeps me honest in my assessment- especially related to body fat
Being an athlete my entire life, I have stayed fit, or had to get fit every year. As I got older, and finally hit 50, I wanted to make sure that what every single person was fond of telling me, would not become true. That is that my strength, endurance, speed, power, would diminish. That I would spend more time injured and recover slower. I have never bought into traditional thinking, as it creates traditional results, or “average” results. Take a look at the “average” male, age 50, and that is not the fitness level I want to be at. I certainly can’t compete against 20 year olds with an average 50 year old body. So, does that mean I am special somehow? Not at all, it means that I am not drawing a downwards line from here to my grave and mapping my fitness level on that line. Instead, I am attempting to maintain, or improve overall fitness compared to my past. So far it has worked very well and I have found that I can run, lift, kayak, climb, swim, row, etc. etc. at an elite level as long as I stay consistent. I am less plagued by injury today than I was in my 20′s. I can’t seem to eat as much as before without gaining weight, and am pretty sure it is from spending more time in front of a computer and less playtime on top of my working out.
Working out with Me:
I have been looking for a workout tool that helps me take the guess work out of each workout and my overall fitness program. A new high tech start-up was the last place I thought to look, but stumbled upon it through my friend Christian Schauf. This program combines physical tracking through both GPS and a heart rate monitor with having a personal coach talk you through each workout. I wanted to get my own workouts documented and made available for anyone wanting to stay fit with me and this has just happened. I have lots of other workouts that I have not yet recorded, but there are 5 that are available to you right now.
If you never did another workout, and put these 5 workouts to work for you, you could be one of the fittest people you know!
How the tools work:
You need to have hardware, unfortunately- the Pear Sports heart rate monitory and ear phones and either an iPhone 5 or an Android.
You need the free App software- you can download today- Pear Sports App on iTunes.
You need to select the workouts you want to do- Mine have this logo: They range from Free to $9.99.
My 5 workouts to date are:
Fat Off/Muscle On- Circuit weights that I HIGHLY recommend you get in the habit of doing!
Run/Jump/Push/Run- Running with push-ups and Jumping Jacks mixed in to break it up and keep your shoulders/arm strong while running.
Power Kayak- An endurance/power workout in your boat that is done in flatwater or whitewater. Prepare for the season, get ready for a big race, or just build up your core and upper body and kayak prowess.
Power Kayak Mixer- Add in high speed sprints to beef up your total upper body strength and power. Increase your top end speed for racing or tough ferries, etc.
Multi-Speed Cardio Blast- A tread mill workout that involves hills and intervals to keep it interesting and help get you ready for the season.
The way it works is:
Once you have the workouts on your phone and the hardware ($100) you select the workout you want to do on the app and hit “Start”. You’ll hear me give you prompts for what to do next. I’ll let you know if you are going too fast or slow based on your heart rate, as well as give you tips for paddling better, lifting, etc.. Hopefully you’ll find my encouragement to be the difference between doing what you think you should do and actually doing it.
Before you begin you’ll have to do a 20 minute calibration workout to get your Lactic Threshold so the app will be customized to your physical condition and make-up. My lactic threshold, for example is at a heart rate of 144. My max heart rate is 183. My VO2 Max is 72.8. The app will take your lactic threshold and create workout “zones” from zero to 5 and I, as the coach will ask you to workout in those zones. The App will automatically update you as to the Zone you are in, either on demand, or at set intervals, or when, I, the coach want to let you know what zone you are in.
The way fitness Works in General:
Your body adapts quickly to the demands put on it. No demand, no fitness which is quickly followed up with sickness, and injury, usually weight gain. It is easier, more motivating, and more productive to stay fit than to get fit. My favorite line related to fitness has been, compliments of Denis Waitley- “Is your body a clunker parked by the curb getting you from birth to death any old way, or it is a finely tuned race car ready for any challenge?” The mental image of that quote is a reminder for me that it takes regular maintenance to keep my body race ready. Once you understand and internalize that concept it is simply a matter of knowing what to do, how often, how fast, etc.. Uncertainties there tend to be demotivators. If you know exact what do to and what the results will be from doing it, it is much easier to commit to getting started and sticking with it.
Power, endurance, strength, speed, flexibility- All are important and most can be combined into one workout.
Power= work/time being able to run up a steep hill in 60 seconds takes twice the power of the same hill in 120 seconds. Having the ability to do more work/exercise in less time is a big part of fitness. It determines how fast you can move yourself around, and other things. To have power, you need muscle strength, muscle endurance, and enough cardio conditioning to complete your work with out running out of oxygen.
Endurance= being able to go long and hard. Endurance is a combination of having a big enough fuel supply (oxygen) from your lungs, enough capillaries to distribute that oxygen to your muscles quickly/effectively, and have muscles that are capable of burning that oxygen for a long period of time without tiring out. Top end endurance capability is often measured in terms of “VO2 Max” which simply is how much oxygen your body can burn in 60 seconds. In order to burn more oxygen than you can burn today (think of oxygen as your fuel, like gasoline is to a car) You need effective lungs to absorb it, enough capillaries to distribute it, and muscles ready to burn it. Each of these things are trainable. Here is what your endurance workouts will do for you:
- Your typical breath is shallow and only a fraction of what your lungs are prepared to do. If you don’t workout often enough, your maximum breath/lung capacity decreases. Working out stretches your diaphragm and lungs out, clears out dormant bronchi (air absorbing tubes) and increase breath volume. It is like adding a turbo charger to a car.
- Working your muscles in endurance mode literally creates more capillaries to carry the blood to those muscles more effectively. Since you barely use your muscles in resting mode, certainly not near capacity, they hardly need any blood to them, compared to in workout or competition mode. Capillaries dry up and no longer carry blood. Think of it is a small creek in the summer dry months that dry up and grow over. In the Spring during a lot of rain, the rain fills it up, washes out sticks, weeds, etc.. and creates a fully working creek. Same with the little vessels that carry blood to your muscles. In order to run, kayak, lift weights, etc.. your muscles require more blood than resting and the capillaries that are being used can’t carry enough blood, so your muscles can’t get enough oxygen and they don’t go as fast or far as you want, getting tired and slow early. Your body responds to that workout by laying down more capillaries and rebuilding your system. This brings in more blood, more oxygen and allows you to go faster next time (getting in shape)
- Building up the muscles- bigger muscles can do more work- your endurance workouts not only improve your ability to feed your muscles, but they build the strength and lasting power of the muscles themselves. Burning off fat that gets in the way and slows you down.
Speed: Your muscles can burn more than just oxygen. In fact, the “Lactic Threshold” heart rate is important because at that heart rate you are working harder than your Oxygen system can handle and the only way you can keep going, or go faster than that is to use another type of Fuel. Lactic Acid.
Lactic Acid is not a bad thing- it is critical to your life and athletic ability. Your heart uses primarily lactic acid as a fuel during exercise and when you burn glucose during exercise, you are using lactic acid as a fuel for that, not oxygen. When you workout slower than your lactic threshold heart-rate (144 for me) you are burning primarily oxygen in your muscles, but your lactic acid production is still underway- HOWEVER- you can burn that lactic acid and process the hydrogen ions that cause cramping and make your muscles tired faster than it is produced. This simply means that you can keep going without crashing. When you go faster than your lactic threshold, you burn more lactic acid than you can process over a long period of time and your muscles start letting you know as the hydrogen ions build up in your muscles and they struggle to contract properly, you feel the need to slow down, and there is a burn sensation in them. Like your oxygen system, your lactic acid fuel system is very trainable. As an athlete, your goal is to have the most capacity in your oxygen system first, so you don’t rely on Lactic Acid going at a pace that somebody else can simply burn oxygen, that is your endurance training. Training your lactic acid system improves your speed, power, and ability to repeat the challenge over and over…
- Pushing your body beyond endurance pace with interval training, longer sprints, at heart rates over lactic threshold levels forces you to burn lactic acid.
- Burning lactic acid on a regular basis as a fuel increases your ability to burn it efficiently. Creating high levels of lactic acid with intense training forces your body to respond by increasing enzymes that improve your bodies ability to turn lactic acid into a fuel. Only with “lactic tolerance training” do you improve your ability to produce, burn, and then remove the residual effects of lactic acid more effectively. This fuel system is critical to anyone who wants to race and win.
Strength- Most people understand the relationship between strong muscles and a good life. “Can you open this jar for me?” “Can you help me lift this X,Y, Z?” Being strong also has daily benefits that go far beyond athletics/kayaking. Weakness is just that… Weakness of mind or body means you want to do something, but can’t. Weight training is certainly one of the most effective and easy to target muscles method of improving strength. However, kayaking without doing weights can do the same thing, but only if you go hard enough. Here are some important things to remember about getting stronger muscles and why bother…
- Your muscles are all you have to support your frame/bones, and hold everything into place. Strong muscles are where you get strong joints, back, neck, everything. Strengthen your muscles and your entire body holds together better, you feel better, and you are more injury resistant.
- Your muscles, like the rest of your body functions, respond to a challenge to it, by rebuilding itself stronger than it was before. Muscles are built by being broken down first through challenging exercise. The current thinking, which has been around for as long as I can remember, is that the fastest way to build up a muscle is to lift weights/stress that muscle to a level that it can do about 8-10 reps of and doing at least 3 sets of that exercise. Weights, or body weight exercises are the easiest way to control and monitor that amount of exercise on a muscle. Typically you can see your muscles grow with 6 workouts spread out over 12-15 days, assuming you are working at about 30 reps on it each workout. You need to be careful not to overdue initial workouts if you have not been lifting weights, as you are able to lift more than you should your first time. Your muscles will over work and you’ll hurt your tendons, getting tendonitus, or worse if you give it your all in your first few workouts.
- Building larger muscles , improves your fat/muscle ratio, and creates a bigger demand for fuel (food/calories), which helps you lose weight or prevent weight gain with the same amount of calories eaten.
- Building muscle increases your ability to kayak fast, roll, brace, do tricks, etc.. in kayaking.
Flexibility: Everyone knows someone, or has seen someone who is very strong, but has a very limited range of motion in their body. They walk around stiff, labored, and ultimately they are in pain most of the time. This is not a result of being strong, but a result of limiting their range of motion while getting strong, and not using a wide range of motion in their lives.
Stretching- I am not going to talk about stretching first- because stretching is not the primary reason for people being flexible or stiff- contrary to popular opinion.
RANGE OF MOTION- another way of saying that is being active and using your body in ways that require you to move your arms, legs, neck, back, and core in movements that run those body parts through the natural range they were designed for. Sitting in a chair at a computer is an example of a very limited range of motion for your shoulders, neck, back, and legs. Do it long enough each day, for enough time, and your body will respond by being very comfortable in that position, but not even capable of other positions.
- Whitewater Kayaking- There are few activities that are better for improving your range of motion from your core up, than whitewater kayaking and specifically playboating/freestyle. My “EJ’s Strokes and Concepts” warm-up drills are specifically designed to run your body through FULL range of motion, which is how you stay flexible, first.
- Use your body at full range of motion, and maintain full range of motion. Ever wonder why old people often “shuffle” when they walk? Their range of motion on their legs is very limited, making each step short, and a long step impossible because they are too “tight”. Is that a function of age? No, it is a function of allowing themselves to reduce their stride over time, and their body responds by getting tighter and tighter, year after year, until they are at a shuffle for a stride. There are people the same age, running marathons with a nice long stride. I am not trying to be insensitive to those people who find themselves shuffling from place to place, because they had no idea this was what was going to happen due to their lifestyle and lack of using a full range of motion of their body during the years prior. However- to suggest that this is what a body of their age should look and work like is to take away the most powerful piece of knowledge that everyone should have available to them… that YOU are in control of your range of motion (and overall condition for that matter).
Some tips for maintaining full range of motion in your body:
- When walking around- take occasional BIG steps, feeling the stretch in your legs.
- Always go up stairs 2 or even 3 at a time.
- Kayak- learn to use your torso in your forward stroke- do my stroke drill warm up
- Stretch three times/week or do yoga (I don’t do yoga, but only because I do enough kayaking and other full range of motion exercising and I prefer it over yoga)
- Run/lift/climb/play games- disc golf, calisthenics, throwing and other games activities that are fun and force you to use your body in many positions.
Stretching- stretching is a way to INCREASE your range of motion but should only be done after you are already warmed up to full range of motion for your body. Stretching cold is hurtful. Warm up first. There are tons of stretching programs available for you to follow. If you can’t touch your toes, or ideally your palms on the ground with straight legs, you should consider beginning a full range of motion and stretching program.
The 5 Workouts I have ready for you to join in with me are all you need to take care of Speed, Power, flexibility, strength, and endurance. They can be assembled over the course of a week and should be repeated until you are happy with your conditioning.
I would suggest:
Fat Off/Muscle On- 3 times/week (takes 21 minutes in the gym each)
Run/Jump/Push/Run- 3 times/week (30 minutes each)
Power Kayak- 1 times/week (more if you can kayak more and you can replace running with this if you want to kayak more) (27 minutes)
Power Kayak Mixer- 1 time/week (27 minutes)
Multi-Speed Cardio Blaster- you can combine with Fat Off/Muscle On and it is a substitute for the Run/Push/Jump/Run workout. 3 times/week (21 minutes each)
Total Workout time for AWESOME conditioning? 3.5 hours of “on time” each week.
Remember that only you can create the body you want, deserve, and were born to have. Don’t let the people around you that say, “you look good for your age” etc.. suck you into becoming lazy and content to allow your body to depreciate. Most of the daily input we get from friends and family and society in general related to fitness in our lives is rhetoric. It is like getting specific legal advice, or business advice from people without the knowledge to really help.
I hope this overview helps you. I will be adding specific workout information, tips, and more detailed fitness information here on my website from time to time.