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A Shift in Workout Philosophy

There is something I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. Thanks to my purchase of Becoming a Supple Leopard and Mario’s purchase of Convict Conditioning, I’ve really been questioning how we work out. I love to work out, but I’m not sure my workout philosophy has always been the best. What I’ve noticed is that we are so obsessed about the reps, sets, and pace that we have a real disregard for form, range of motion, and a solid, strong, foundation. Allow me to explain…

I haven’t read any of Convict Conditioning yet, but Mario gave be a great summary about the push up that I’d like to share. In the book, which is based on calisthenics, the author goes through a 10 step progression for exercises such as the push up and pull up. The author describes two very different people and their experience with the progression. One who decides steps 1-4 of the push up progression are too easy so he starts with step 5, and another who starts from step 1 and works his way up. What happens? Well the guy who started at step 5, because he lacked a solid foundation and had underdeveloped smaller muscle groups,  constantly battled injury and never made it to step 10. The other guy, who started with step 1, successfully progressed to one arm push ups while being completely injury free. Why? Because he had the strength and range of motion other guy lacked.

Why is this important? A few weeks ago I went to a very intense workout class. It’s the workout class that’s about intervals and intensity, which I absolutely love. However, because of the things I’ve been reading lately, I noticed how the emphasis was more on speed and reps than correct form. Perhaps for 1 workout, it isn’t that detrimental to your body. However, over time, doesn’t that reinforce bad habits? When the goal is to do as much push ups possible in 1 minute, how many people are honestly going to keep good form? Exactly.

I think another reason that this has been on my mind lately is because I’m really evaluating my body, my form, and my workout philosophy. In the past, I’d always be the first to sacrifice form for pace. 5K PR with weak hips, sure! But it always gets me the same result. Some great workout times that I can reminisce about while sitting on the injured list.   It’s actually pretty lame.

My focus is shifting more towards calisthenics. It’s going to be a long process to get to where I want to be, but that’s okay. When I think about what strong means and what it means to have complete functional use of your body, nothing represents that more than these people…


And of course, I absolutely love everything Al Kavadlo does. He’s always so happy and an awesome resource for anything calisthenics related!

al squat

Happy Trails and  Happy Running,



Running Update: The Chicago Marathon is in less than 3 weeks. I’m severely undertrained but am completely okay with that fact. I’m going to look at this as a fun run through a great city. I already received my Boston confirmation so I’ll save my energies for that race. 🙂

Performance vs. Injury Prevention

A few days ago I received my copy of Becoming a Supple Leopard. Tonight I finally had the chance to sit down and start reading it and holy cow, is it a lot of information to take in! But I love it.

I’d like to share some thoughts after reading the first chapter:

I look at any training (weights, dynamic stretching, etc.) other than running as injury prevention. Something to keep me running a little longer and with a little less pain.  Being the hard headed Taurus I am, in my mind, when I’m not injured, I’m not doing it. (And that would be a fail on my part.) But I know I should be doing these things, all for the sake of preventing an injury. Right?

Here is a simple shift in this view, proposed my Starrett, that kind of has me rethinking my thought process… Training for performance, not for injury prevention.

What if we looked at the weight training and functional exercises as increasing performance and not preventing injuries? What if we understood how proper overhead squats translated into better running economy? And what if we understood how addressing our limited range of motion would allow for a more efficient stride, while also preventing our tendonitis that continues to plague us? For me personally, I might be doing a few more squats, varying the intensity, varying the reps, sprinting before (or after), all in an effort to discover weaknesses. And I would be doing it to increase my performance, not preventing an injury. (But luckily, fewer injuries just may come second.) 😉

I like this quote from the book:

“Athletes are both greedy and smart – greedy in that they will do whatever it takes to get better in the shortest amount of time possible, and smart in that they will absolutely repeat specific practices and interventions that improve their performance or take away their pain. ” –Becoming a Supple Leopard

How do you look at the training that you do other than running? As injury prevention or increasing performance? I’ve always been an injury prevention thinker. I think it’s time for a paradigm shift.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


The Road Less Traveled

For a long time now, I’ve considered myself a runner. Pretty much everybody knows this about me. But I call myself a runner at the sake of what? Tendonitis? Strained hip flexors? Stress fractures? Hips that pop enough to make me think I’m well on my way to arthritis? These are all ailments that I’ve suffered from, and last Saturday after my 15 mile run and the really painful tendonitis that followed the next day, I was finally able to say out loud, I’m tired of hurting.

You see running has been such a mental and physical addiction for me for a long time. But unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to step back and ask the very important question why? Why do these injuries always follow me? Sometimes I think I have it figured out. One day yoga will become my new friend, or I’ll focus on an improved arm swing, or I’ll spend so much time in the pigeon pose that I think my body is actually healed. Wrong. These stretches and small adjustments do not answer the fundamental question of why? Why am I weak? Where? How does my form break down after X amount of mileage? What starts to compensate for what? What role do strong back, shoulder, hip, leg, an abs play in my running? How capable are my muscles of handling the stress of running so much?

If you’ve ever heard the expression you have to learn to crawl before you can walk, this is the point where I am right now.  I’m starting from scratch. And here’s how…

Yesterday, while doing some research on unilateral exercises, I came across this guy…

al kavadlo

Al Kavadlo. If I had to describe him, I would simple say pure beast. And not beast like he’s so big with all his big muscles. I’m talking a beast of pure strength with the ultimate level of functional fitness. One of the most interesting things about Kavadlo’s approach to training is he uses nothing but his body weight to develop his incredible level of fitness. No barbells, no dumbbells, no kettlebells. Just a park with some bars and his own weight. For some reason, this really resonates with me and it has provided me with a new insight to strength training… a much more functional approach. As I get back to the basics, I will take on Mr. Kavadlo’s philosophy to fitness. (You can actually read it here.)

The second resource I will be using to help me build myself back up from ground zero is a book my cousin suggested to me a few months ago, Becoming a Supple Leopard. The way Dan described it to me was a book that teaches you the importance of learning to stand properly, sit properly, engage your core, etc. And when I saw it at Barnes and Noble today, I quickly learned it was practically an encyclopedia of knowledge on biomechanics, how to correct your form, how to discover your weaknesses, how to use training as a diagnostic tool, and how to get your body to be the machine it was made to be.  I only had time to read the introduction, but it made me realize one very important fact. With my rate of injuries and how I push myself for the sake of miles and workouts, my body is ticking time bomb that can not continue this way.  I have run my body into a myriad of imbalances and weaknesses that need to be corrected before I can really focus on my running goals. Here is a resource to help me get there.

Of course this is not the road that I would like to be headed down right now. However, the fact of the matter remains the same. My  body is not functioning the way it was designed to. It’s off balance. It’s weak. The muscles are tight and the tendons are swollen. Yes, I’m still planning to run Chicago in October but I have no time goal. I’m just excited to be going. One month later I’ll be running the Las Vegas Marathon for the Multiple Myeloma Foundation (check it out here!), and I’m planning to register for Boston 2014 on September 13.  But again, my goals are not about time right now. They are about getting my body back to a place of balance and strength.

And I am happy to report that two days of intense body weight exercises, my back has discovered muscles it never knew existed. 🙂 This could be fun.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


P.S. This was the inspiration for the title. You really should watch it. It’ll make you smile, I promise.