Many months ago I promised to begin core work in the hopes I would suck a little less at skiing and try to bring balance back to my body from cycling, which pushes everything out of whack. It never happened. I even bought a medicine ball. My wife is the only one using it. Today I learned just how pathetically most of my body is out of shape.
I left my road bike in the car from Wednesday's tough 75 minute ride with SteveG at lunch. I failed to look at Thursday's forecast. Snow moved in before lunch. Steve was thinking about going to Kevin Buckley's gym, Dynamic Strength and Conditioning. He'd been bugging me for months to try it out. First visit is free even. A quick phone call even eliminated the excuse that all I had was winter cycling spandex with me. His wife Gina would come too and bring an extra pair of shorts and shirt with her. I bet she wasn't going to miss this for the world.
Kevin wasn't working this day. His partner Michelle would lead the lunch session. Kevin and Michelle's program is all about Functional Interval Training, or FIT. The whole body is brought into play to do seemingly silly things are surprisingly effective in strengthening the core and everything else. The gym is on the fourth flow of an old mill building downtown Nashua. I thought the climb up was a pretty good workout in itself. Going back down after the workout was the real test though.
We warmed up for about 10 minutes doing a myriad of motions designed to loosen up the body. I was clearly the least limber in the group of eight. I was also the least coordinated. I forget what name was given to the medley of exercises that comprised the core of the workout. There were five stations. We would spend 40 seconds at each station, transition to the next in 20 seconds, until each exercise was completed twice. This would take 10 minutes. A two minute rest was given before starting second and third rounds. Whole routine lasted 34 minutes. How hard could that be? VERY HARD. Here's the five exercises:
1. Battling Ropes
2. Sitting Tucks
4. D-ball clean/press
5. Double kettlebell squats
The ropes were slung around a pole about 20-30 feet away. There was a thick rope and a really thick rope, like barely get your hand around it. Idea was to keep the rope in motion, either waves or spirals. Sitting tucks are kind of like crunches, but your feet and back are not supposed to touch the floor. The swimmers were like double poling with straight arms, bungee cords from the wall. D-ball clean/press consisted of hoisting a dead weight ball above your head in controlled fashion, and letting it down in controlled fashion. The kettlebell squats are deep knee squats with dual kettlebells at your chest.
So how did I do? Letter grades for 1-5 above were C, F, B, C-, D-. If these were college class grades, I might be able land an enterprising job in the fast food business.
Starting on the large battling ropes, I'd say the ropes whipped me around more than I whipped them around. This takes all kinds of shoulder and core stability muscles to keep it going with any kind of energy. 30 seconds into the 40 second interval, my arms were ready to fall off. Steve must have had pity for me, as he took the large ropes the remainder of the session. C was the highest I could grade myself on this one, as the smaller ropes were for women.
Next up were sitting tucks. First off, I could not do these without cheating. At all. My ab muscles would immediately crap out and feet or back would drop to the floor. So I used the beginner method of placing my hands just behind my butt for stability. Even then, I could not go 40 seconds. I became quite certain I have a rare genetic condition where I never grew abdominal muscles. It was an ugly scene. Got an F on this one.
Swimmers were next. This looked a lot like double poling. I thought this should be pretty easy, so I went for one of the thicker cord sets. But of course, I had it all wrong. Michelle had to correct my technique. Idea was to hold handles like gripping a bar in front of you, hands over, then bring arms all the way back with no bend in the elbows. Not so easy. At least you could fake this one without completely embarrassing yourself. I gave myself a B, mostly for aesthetics.
So how about the D-ball presses? Steve went right for the 80 pound ball. You got to be shittin' me! I picked up a 30 pounder and wondered if I would drop it on my head. That went ok the first time around. The second time around I tried a 40 pounder. After 40 seconds, my arms were violently trembling while raising the ball above my head. My back started go all wonky too. Hmm, C- I guess.
The last station was the kettlebells. I've never worked with these before. I've never done a squat before. I know my knees don't like deep bends. Anything more than the 60 degrees or so on the bicycle is too much. And on a bike, this is top dead center with no weight on them. My knees just don't ever go there, and I don't ask them too. I started with a single 12kg kettlebell. The first time I squatted, I felt all kinds of random bits of tissue in my knees giving way. I quickly concluded that even my own body weight is too much to squat, without additional dead weight at my chest. So here's the kicker. Steve's wife grabs two kettlebells (like we're supposed to), cranking out more squats with deeper bend with twice the weight of what I used. And she doesn't weigh a whole lot more than half what I weigh. Yeah, I got girled big time. In fact, I think I got girled at most of the routines. This one was pretty nearly a failure too, so I give myself a D-.
By the last time through the sequence, I couldn't even do a single sitting tuck. The two miniscule abdominal muscle fibers I might have possessed when we started had shit the bed. Interestingly, my quad muscles seemed to hurt the most. I'm pretty sure it was due to eccentric muscle contraction, where the muscle is contracting while lengthening. You never do this on a freewheel bicycle. You do it hiking down a mountain, which explains why I get debilitating shin splints each time. Who'd think these workouts would make cycling muscles hurt?
It was a great workout none the less. Gives me something to think about. I know I lack fitness in many areas, and this just kind of put it right out there in a quantative way. I have to find a way to bring this type of conditioning into my schedule and weekly routine. I'm bound to run into problems sooner or later if I don't.