climbing

More Power!

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Another Monday meant another early morning at Central Rock Cambridge. Today I worked a bit more on power and footwork than on endurance. Here was the routine (the warmup is similar to last week):

  1. 5-10 mins stretching, focus on shoulders and hips.
  2. Pick a bouldering level that is two grades below your redpoint level, so for me that’s a V0. Do a V0 three times in a row. For the first one I took my time and stretched out on each hold.
    1. Do a core exercise until exhaustion. Here’s a list of the exercises I did today:
      1. Tornado situps (lie flat, swiftly bring legs up straight, bringing up the butt and into middle back if possible, twist hips, come down and then bring upper body up to a situp)
      2. Straight leg-lifts
      3. Side crunches
      4. High plank rhomboid shrugs (I just made up this name as I’m having trouble finding an example, you hold a high plank position and do pushup action just with the shoulder blades: draw shoulder blades together and chest comes down, push shoulder blades apart and chest comes up)
      5. TRX plank knees-to-chest
      6. Pull-up prep (more on this below)
      7. Bridge with alternating legs up
  3. Repeat #2 with two more V0s, focus on overhanging V0s.
  4. Repeat #2 with four V1s but only do each V1 twice, again focus on overhanging V1s.
  5. Repeat #2 with one V2, climb it only once if you flash it, climb up to three times if you don’t.
  6. Work at least 5 minutes on your project. My project is a slabby V3 so it was a nice contrast to the power prep I did. I made it about three moves past last week and am just one move from the top so I’m stoked!
  7. Hit the weight room for this circuit (if you have time repeat this at least twice, I only had time for one set):
    1. Seated tricep press low weight for 12 reps, higher weight for 8 reps (I used 15 + 20 lb)
    2. Reclined tricep press low weight for 12 reps, higher weight for 8 reps (I used 15 + 20 lb)
    3. KB lunge and row x 10 each side (I used 26 lb KB)
    4. Situps on the ball x 20
    5. Grab two weight plates (I used 2 x 10 lbs) and hold with your fingertips while doing deep lunges the length of the room x 2 (~25 paces in that gym).
    6. Pull-up prep or pull-ups to exhaustion
  8. Spend at least 5-10 minutes cooling down and stretching. Focus on releasing shoulders, triceps/biceps, forearms/wrists/hands and hamstrings + quads.

Overall this was less bouldering problems than last week (15 plus about 5 tries on my project, as opposed to 30 plus projecting last week) but since I chose overhanging routes and harder problems it was quite a workout. I also felt I could focus more on my footwork with the harder problems. V0s are so ladderish that while my intent was footwork, I mostly worked on quiet feet and played a bit with flagging where appropriate. Today I was able to do more with heel and toe hooks and I really needed to up my flagging and drop-knees and get weight in my feet to support the steep climbs. It felt really good and I can feel myself progressing and using more of my entire body when I climb.

Finally, I want to give a bit shoutout to Coach Rich of Mountain Strength Crossfit for his helpful advice on pull-ups. I believe I mentioned that I finally have started being able to do unassisted pull-ups. Well, there’s a little catch to that. I’m doing well at engaging my lats to start and then my biceps to finish but I get to a point where my biceps are pressed against my forearms and my head is barely over the bar; it’s like I get stuck. Another trainer told me I had to engage my rhomboids there so I went to give it a go and Rich checked my form. He immediately noticed a few things. Yes, I do need to engage my rhomboids, but I needed to alter my posture altogether. I need to look up (I was looking forward) and aim my sternum towards the bar. As a beginner I also need to widen my grip to start so as I pull back my elbows have space to come next to my ribs and my rhomboids engage. He has me doing an exercise where I hang in this wide-arm position, look up, point my sternum at the bar and just work on engaging rhomboids as I do continuous “mini pull-ups” (my word, not his). I will update you all on my progress, but I’m hoping this advice also helps others. This “mini pull-up” is what I mean by “pull-up prep” in my routine above.

Rich also gave me the weight plate exercise (#7F). This seems like a great exercise for climbers as it works grip strength, shoulder/back and legs.

More next week, along with hopefully an article on the importance of working antagonists. I can’t tell you how much better my hands are feeling now that I’m regularly using PowerFingers to strengthen my extensors. If you have any training tips please send them my way!

Power Endurance

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I still owe updates to my Thanksgiving post, but somehow the time has flown and we’re past the holidays and on to another new year! I’m pretty happy with how my physical fitness went in 2014, but I definitely have plans to ramp it up in 2015. My biggest fitness accomplishment was my commitment to and improvement in climbing. I can’t believe that it was a year ago that I was gifted a membership to Central Rock Gym, but what might be more impressive is that I kept a regular routine there for the entire year, woot! I went from a casual climber doing 5.6/5.7s and working on V0s, to regularly red pointing 5.9/5.10s and flashing V2s. That still makes me a “beginner” in climbing classification, but it’s also motivating to keep going along with finding ways to get to the next level.

My biggest focus right now is footwork. I’ve watched hundreds of hours of climbing videos (literally) and have worked a little bit with trainers and I’m left with mentally understanding what I need to do with my feet, but not executing it properly…especially when I get tired which is exactly when the technique would really help me. So lots of work on soft feet, trusting the grip and pressing my weight into my toes. I will get there! The other focus is general fitness (esp. core fitness) and projecting more so I can stretch myself.

Today I did a power endurance routine that I modified from other climbing workouts online. Many of the climbing workouts I’ve found have been for people who are at the V5/5.11+ level of climbing. I’m not there yet and there are some things I can’t do safely: e.g. finger training, as I already managed to inflame the tendons of my right hand by overdoing finger training. My hands will strengthen as I climb more and eventually I’ll be able to get on the hangboard, but for now my focus is technique and, the topic of the day, power endurance.

I’ve been top roping and leading a lot lately, which is great for endurance but not ideal for power. Since CRG opened a new bouldering gym in Cambridge with morning hours that alternate their Watertown location I’ve been able to get in on Mondays and boulder. They also have an excellent fitness area so I’ve begun making my own routines to keep myself challenged and my heart rate up. This was my workout today. The intent was to build up sustained strength (aka power endurance). It was intense, rewarding, exciting and definitely got my heart rate up! I was bright red by the end of it!

1/5/2015

  1. 5-10 mins stretching, focus on shoulders and hips.
  2. Pick a bouldering level that is two grades below your redpoint level, so for me that’s a V0. Do a V0 three times in a row. For the first one I took my time and stretched out on each hold. You will repeat this for every V0 in the gym (that was 10 problems at CRG). After each set of three take a “break” by doing one of these:
    1. Pushups to exhaustion.
    2. Tornado situps to exhaustion.
    3. Leg lifts to exhaustion.
    4. Tricep dips to exhaustion.
    5. Side sit-ups to exhaustion.
    6. Plank or forearm plank to exhaustion.
    7. Insert your own challenging core exercise here.
  3. Once done, work at least 5 mins on your project. Don’t have a project in the gym? Pick something at least one grade above your redpoint level.
  4. Think you’re exhausted? Great, do one last round of a challenging core exercise (I did TRX plank knee-ins and sit-ups on the balance ball) and then pull-ups to exhaustion, which was just two for me because I’m still working on my pull-ups.

That whole workout took me an hour. There was very little rest time. The trick is to manage the on and off the wall time so your forearms don’t get too pumped. The “break” time when you work on core should be equal to the time you’re on the wall. IF you run out of problems in your low grade at the gym go to the next level up (e.g. V1 in my example) and try your three rounds, or drop to two if you’re getting really pumped.

In theory, this workout will build strength, help you learn to get through the pump and help you burn some calories with the cardio rush. Since I was working on easy problems and repetition I was able to focus more on my footwork and also play with different ways to climb each problem (I tried to use slightly different body positions each time since V0s are loaded with holds).

If you’re a climber and you try this I’d love to know what you think of it and what your favorite climbing workouts are!

Let’s Do Brunch!

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Oh gosh, I’m so behind in posts so let’s start with something tasty! First, a quick update on fitness. I had a BLAST climbing in Central Rock Gym’s The Heist bouldering competition at the end of September. My knee has been doing great and it didn’t bug me at all during the comp. If you’d like to see highlights from my climbs check out my video below (note, I was climbing in the Beginner’s Division as I’m still a n00b in the climbing world).
Tonight I’m taking a lead climbing class and am thrilled to enter the next level of climbing! But, climbing aside, let’s talk about food!

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Paleo Pancakes with Raspberry Maple Syrup and Sausage!

You are in for a treat! This easy-to-make meal is paleo, gluten and dairy free, high in protein and absolutely delicious! I did not invent the pancake recipe. It’s been floating around the internet for at least a year now, but they’re so good!

Paleo Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Bananas
  • Dash cinnamon
  • 2 servings protein powder (optional, I personally skip this)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend briefly until smooth and just a little frothy.
  2. Preheat a skillet, if it’s not non-stick add an oil of your choosing (I used coconut oil).
  3. Cook just like pancakes. A few minutes on each side. I recommend keeping the pancakes small. It sounds like this recipe is just too simple to work, but the pancakes actually hold together very easily and are easy to flip. They come out light and fluffy with just a mild banana flavor.
  4. Makes 2 servings (~8 medium pancakes)

Raspberry Maple Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen (and thawed) raspberries

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender.
  2. Heat before serving. Yes, it’s that easy.

Breakfast Sausage

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb pork
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1tsp smoked paprika
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp dried sage or 1 tsp fresh minced sage
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme or 1 tsp fresh minced thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary or 1 tsp fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • dash cayenne
  • 1 tbsp virgin coconut oil

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients except oil and mix well.
  2. Preheat a skillet over medium with 1 tbsp coconut oil.
  3. Form pork mixture into small patties and place in pan.
  4. Fry over medium about 3-4 minutes per side, until nice and golden on the outside and fully cooked on the inside.
  5. Makes ~12 sausage. Freeze any extras to easily reheat for next time!

Let me know what you think of these recipes! I was particularly pleased with the breakfast sausage. It has a TON of flavor without being spicy. Perfect for a breakfast sausage. I was a big fan!

Upswing

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It’s been a good week! Let me break it down by workout!

Monday found me back in the gym for a pretty intense workout. I actually got so caught up in circuit training that I never made it to the pool. I can’t say I missed the smell of chlorine in my hair though. 😉 This is what I did:

  1. 30 minutes on the recumbent bike, interval training but no steep hills (per PT).
  2. Circuit 2 x:
    1. Double-leg-lift w/ crunch x 15 (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    2. Side leg-lifts x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle)
    3. Standing single-leg deadlifts to kick-backs x 15 each side (wearing 5 lb ankle weights on each ankle and using 26.5 lb KB)
    4. TRX low rows x 10
    5. Bicep curls x 10 (using 12 lb weights)
    6. Bicep forearm curls (using 12 lb weights)
    7. Overhead tricep extensions on an exercise ball (using 15 lb weight)
    8. French presses on an exercise ball (using 15 lb weight)
    9. Weighted pilates sit-ups (using 15 lb weight)
  3. 15 mins stretching, including full leg stretch series with resistance band.

I felt great after this workout and I saw my PT later that morning. She says my quads are getting noticeably stronger and as my vastus medialis strengthens the tracking issue with my patella should resolve. The brace I bought is making a huge difference and the PT encouraged me to start trying short-duration squats, lunges and planks.

The BIG news is TUESDAY I CLIMBED!!! Woo-hoo!! That also means I’ve re-discovered muscles in my back that I forgot I had. 😀 I started by riding a bike at the rock gym for 15 minutes and then I hit the walls. Whoo, I forgot what a cardio workout climbing is, coming into it with a sweat from the bike was tough! I started by climbing all of the V0’s, and I was feeling really good. I even did a V0 that was all overhang and it felt good and smooth. The leg exercises that my PT has had me working on are very core/psoas oriented which was perfect prep for hitting the rock walls. I felt strong despite not climbing in over a month. I then hit some V1s and a V2- before I decided I had enough. That was only about 45 minutes of climbing, but it was a great start and again the knee brace made the tracking issue nonexistent.

Tuesday after work I took a trek to Mission Hill in Boston to check out a recumbent stationary bike I found on Craigslist. It was totally what I wanted and at a good price so it was worth the almost 2 hours of driving to get it. When I got it home I did 30 mins on it.

I’ll admit, after two days of pretty intense workouts my knee was a bit sore today at the distal  tendon attachment. So this morning I just did pilates with a glute focus. I did play with squatting and lunging a bit in there. I’ve also found that planks are pretty comfortable with the knee brace so I’m excited to start doing more plank exercises. When I went to PT today I let her know I was sore, but much better than last week. She was happy with my progress and told me some sore is ok, but to monitor it. She thinks I’m on an upswing and that’s my hope and thought too.

CLIMBING AGAIN TOMORROW WOOHOO!!!!!

Recovering from Injury

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About two weeks ago I wrote a long post about how I injured my knee at the end of May and the many frustrations I’ve had seeking proper treatment for it. I thought it was my best entry ever, which meant, naturally, that the entire body of the post disappeared when I hit “publish”. After much ado, tech support let me know there was no hope in getting it back. I will hopefully wrangle up the hutzpah to re-write it at some point, but for now I’m just moving on.

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So, quick facts on what’s up:

  1. The last week of May I banged my knee against the climbing walls while bouldering (not unlike me, I have very little grace in my legs when I climb) and bruised my distal quad tendon right at the top of the patella.
  2. The very next day I could barely move my knee and was in a ton of pain. Ice/rest/elevation and I was getting better.
  3. Feeling better, I went back to my normal workouts, which left me unable to walk for two days…crap.
  4. Spent a month modifying workouts and using ice when needed. No pain killers. Still struggling with pain so I saw my PCP, who sent me to an Orthopedist, who diagnosed me with a very small tear on the distal quad tendon and sent me to Physical Therapy.
  5. I haven’t been able to teach yoga since I can’t squat or lunge, I also can’t run/jump or do bodyweight exercises with significant quad engagement. Not easy, but I’ve been making it work.
  6. Just started PT yesterday, which already has made a difference. I have scar tissue in my quad so it will take 4-6wks to repair, as opposed to ~3 if I came in right away, but it WILL repair.

So I’m looking at about another month of recovery as long as I’m careful and keep my fitness up. Unfortunately, much of what I’ve been asked to do (swimming, cycling) I can’t do at home so my loving partner bought me a 1 month membership at our local cattle-call gym. It’s one of those fancy Boston Sports Clubs and, frankly, I fucking hate it. That said, recovery is the most important thing. I’m a physical person, I have two physical jobs and I was preparing for a climbing comp in September, which I still have a chance for if I take care of myself. My leg will also, hopefully, be with me my entire life so I have to treat it right.

I’m posting today to start a log of my workouts. This may not be daily, but I thought this would both help me track what I’m doing and possibly help give others with knee injuries ideas on what they can do. The most common thing I see as a massage therapist is clients who get injured, get out of a normal exercise routine, lose fitness and struggle to get it back or give up entirely and become sedentary. I’ve personally seen this lead to chronic health issues including depression, chronic aches and pains, insomnia, and in extreme cases issues like heart conditions and diabetes due to weight gain. Let’s face it, we all know proper diet and exercise make a huge improvement to our quality of health, so the lack of exercise can lead to poorer health. This is one of the reasons I’m fighting to stay fit, while also ensuring I treat my knee right to prevent further injury. The Orthopedist said this is not a time to “play through the pain” unless I want to be back in 6 months with a completely torn tendon; at which point I would need surgery. No surgery, please!

On to the workouts…

First one is a circuit I’ve been doing at home. I start with a 5-10 min warmup and end with ~15 minutes of yoga for a cool down, ensuring that I’m not doing lunges, squats or two-legged planks on the right.

No knee pain circuit (repeat 2-3x) – Total Time 30-45 mins
  1. One-Legged Wide-Arms Pushups x 10 (bad leg on top)
  2. Bicep and forearm curls x 20 each (10lbs)
  3. Tricep overhead and push x 20 each (10lbs)
  4. L side-crunch x 20
  5. R side-crunch x 20
  6. Chest push and flys x 20 each (10lbs)
  7. Kettlebell Seated Twists x 40 (26lbs)
  8. Weighted sit-ups x 10 (15lbs)
  9. Butt-lifts->legs straight full sit-ups x 10
  10. One-Legged Close-Arms Pushups x 10 (bad leg on top)

And here’s what I did for my first two days at the gym:

7/14/14 – Total time: 1:15

  1. 45 min spin class without standing
  2. 10 mins stretching
  3. 8 laps in olympic-sized pool, various strokes
  4. 10 mins sauna

Reaction: Spin class was SO BORING!! I really struggle with machines that use a lot of cardio but don’t go anywhere. I get the rat-in-a-cage syndrome. That said, I have to bike right now so…

7/15/14 – Total time: 1:15

  1. 30 mins cycling, using intervals for both speed and tension
  2. 5 mins upper-body stretching
  3. Circuit 2x of:
    1. Chest push and flys on ball x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    2. Bicep and forearm curls x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    3. Tricep overhead and push on ball x 10 each (12.5lbs)
    4. Leg lift series (per PT):
      1. Lying on back, lift one leg up, foot flexed, and lift upper body into a crunch x 10 each side.
      2. Side leg-lifts x 10 each side.
      3. Lying on stomach, lift one leg back, foot pointed x 10 each side.
    5. Side-crunches x 10 each side.
  4. 5 mins stretching
  5. Swam 5 laps, various strokes, one lap with kick board.
  6. Attempted to sit in steam room, it smelled like a pile of old socks.

 Reaction: This was much more my style, even though I still wanted to gauge my eyes out during the cycling. It’s so boring. I have to find a way to make it more fun. The circuit was good, shorter than I’d like but it’s hard to fit everything in before work. As it is, ideally my PT would like me to do 40 mins on the bike and I’d like to have swam longer, but I really needed the circuit to make me feel good in my upper body and abs. I realize swimming is a full-body workout, but as someone who’s used to lifting weights, it’s not enough for my upper body.

Through this process I’m also tightening up my diet. I have been cheating on my food allergy diet off and on since moving back to MA; lots of temptations down here. It’s amazing that in just not eating the things I’m allergic to I drop weight immediately…like 7 lbs in a week. That’s just pure gut inflammation, and I was feeling it as my belly started protruding again. For the record, this is not a calorie-restrictive diet, it’s simply not eating the foods I was diagnosed as being allergic to. Huzzah science!

Speaking of which…after a workout like that a healthy breakfast is imperative! This is what I went for:

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Eggs on a gluten-free millet bun with half an avocado with salt + pepper and a small handful of fresh fruit. I have my healthy fats, a good amount of protein, and some carbs to perk me up. Feeling great!!

Raising The Bar

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I started week two of C25K this week. So far it’s noticeably easier this time around and I feel that’s a testament to how my level of fitness has increased over the years. It’s also a huge help that I’ve kept up with a daily yoga practice. My legs were sore last week but daily stretching with yoga, plus a longer class on Thursday night, has really helped make the soreness barely noticeable. This week I also upped my speed in half of the segments that I’m running. The program this week has me alternating running for 1.5 mins and walking for 2 mins for a total of about 29 minutes. I was excited to break the two mile mark yesterday and will try to up my speed when I run again tomorrow. I will say I’m missing my HiiT workouts. I had to shift things around to make room for running so I’m taking a break from HiiT and Kettlebell 2-3 days/wk to running 3 days/wk. While running is great to build my cardio, it’s also a bit boring (especially when compared to HiiT), and it’s not dynamic so it’s uber-focused on legs and core so the rest of my body is just happy I’m continuing to climb and do yoga to keep it active.

I reached a new height in climbing today by killing a 5.9+ route. Regular climbers may not find this impressive, but for me it was a big deal. I specifically chose the route because it had very few jugs and was mostly slopers, pinchers and globes. I hate all of those, though slopers and I have become friendly lately. I’ll also admit the two globes thrown into that route proved to be really nice resting points. But pinchers? We’re still not cool, pinchers. For the non-climbers that read my blog I will eventually explain more about those different holds so sorry if you feel left in the dark for now.

I realized it’s been a long time since I’ve posted a new smoothie recipe, so here’s my current favorite:

Pineapple Mango Smoothie
Pineapple Mango Smoothie

Pineapple Mango Smoothie:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla coconut milk (recipe here)
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 tbsp flax seed (if your blender won’t pulverize this buy it ground)
  • handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup frozen mangos
  • 1/2 cup frozen pineapple

Blend it up in the mixer of your choice! I still love my Vitamix and make smoothies for myself and my partner every morning. If you’d like to indulge in the rest of the meal pictured above, make yourself some Scrambled Eggs with Spinach!

Scrambled Eggs with Spinach (yes, this may sound simple but I’m posting the recipe because I believe my scrambled eggs are recipe-worthy)

Ingredients:

  • two eggs (preferably free-range organic, even better if they’re local)
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut milk (recipe here, omit vanilla and sweetener)
  • handful baby spinach
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (or fat of your choosing)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Melt oil in pan over medium-low
  2. Beat eggs with milk, salt and pepper until slightly frothy.
  3. Add eggs to pan and move continuously. This is the biggest trick to making light, fluffy eggs; keep them moving constantly. I like to use a heat-safe silicon spatula to keep folding them in on each other.
  4. When eggs are barely firm (maybe 20-30 seconds in the pan) add the spinach.
  5. Continue moving constantly until they reach desired firmness and spinach has wilted.

Now have your smoothie and scramble and go take over the world! 😉