Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Learning the Art of Improv

Adapt or perish, now as ever, is nature's inexorable imperative.
H.G. Wells

Plan. Organize. Structure. Calculate. Routine. Strategy. Perfect. These are all words I thrive on.
Chaos. Improvise. Confusion. Disarray. Noise. Unknown. These are all words that frighten me. 

I am a perfectionist. A planner. Ok, a control freak. I plan everything. Before I make a phone call, I rehearse everything I am going to say. (Yes, I am WEIRD.) But I'm learning. Some of the best times I've ever had in my life have been the times where I've relaxed, been unstructured and just lived. My rigidity is over time being worn away, probably by my being worn out by trying futilely to oversee and direct everything.

And as life goes, so goes my training. The days of pre-planning my week of workouts have morphed into a more fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method of training. Mostly thanks to enlisting my husband as my trainer. Basically, I show up, and he hands me a workout. At first, it was more than unnerving. Now it's somewhat freeing. I go and do.

I keep a collection of the workouts in a little notebook-- my little book of knowledge. If things get stale, or I travel, or my husband does, I have a variety of workouts at my fingertips.
Bonus workout--piggy back ride for a student who broke a flip flop.
The invaluable lesson I'm learning is how to adapt. Not always being able to train in a gym, I have a whole series of exercises that I've gathered that can be done anywhere. Once you understand that the most effective way to train, especially for obstacle course races, is to work intensely and confuse your body, then it becomes easier to create your own workouts. My "rules":

Don't work the same body parts in back to back sets-- do a chest exercise, then back, abs, triceps, biceps, legs, etc. This allows you to move through the workout without resting, and that increases the intensity of your training. Here is an excellent sample workout (created by my trainer, Craig Lawson): 5 power cleans, 8 bench press, 8 pull ups, 10 push press, 10 dumbbell rows, 15 walking lunges w/ 25lb plate overhead, 6 1-1-1 biceps curls, 10 straight leg dead lifts. Do 4 rounds.

Be intense-- keep moving throughout your workout. Resting between sets is so LA Fitness. Unless, of course, you are lifting for power, which I do once or twice a month. Sample power workout: back squats-- sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, 8, 10, 12. Front squats-- 3 sets of 8. Bulgarian squats-- 3 sets of 10. Straight leg dead lifts-- 3 sets of 8.

Add cardio in your strength workout-- sample workout: 10 overhead squats, 10 dumbbell clean and press singles, 20 push ups, 4 double plyo box jumps, 30 "windshield wiper" abs, 1- 3 min. run, 6 pull ups. Do 5 rounds.
While in the Bahamas, I wasn't able to do my regular workouts,
so I improvised by carrying a loaded pack everywhere.
Here are some of the exercises I find invaluable when I don't have access to a gym:

  • push ups (you have multiple options here-- elevate your feet to engage your shoulders more, wide hands, diamond, dive bombers, one handed, traveling)
  • body weight squats (or jump squats, single leg squat)
  • body weight lunges (other options-- reverse lunge, side lunge)
  • abs (too many options to list)
  • jump rope (try double unders!)
  • burpees
  • triceps dips
  • kettle bell work (swings, cleans, dead lifts, snatches...)
  • pull ups 
  • TRX exercises 

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