Tag Archives: fitness

Conquering Conditioning – How to Use the Pool to Improve Your Training

Too hot to run sprints…get in the pool!

Last week’s Straight to the Bar twitterchat on conditioning, sparked a great conversation.  Rob DeCillis of Combat Trainer hosted and the ideas and information were flowing.

Photo by: jurvetson

The conversation got me thinking…with the importance of breath control and conditioning for MMA and boxing, why don’t we hear more about fighters using the pool as part of their training.

I tossed a few ideas out and there was definitely interest in the topic.  So, as promised, I’m following up with some more ideas about conquering conditioning in the pool.

Swimming alone will do wonders for your breathing and cardiovascular conditioning.  But, if you get bored easily and find following a black line tedious, then here are 7 ideas that will hold your interest, challenge your cardiovascular conditioning, and teach you to better control your breathing.

Swimming Underwater

Nothing teaches you to measure your breathing and stay focused like swimming underwater (watch how relaxed Kevin Busscher is in the video).  Swimming under water, teaches you to take deeper fuller breaths, to measure your exhalation, and to become familiar with functioning without panicking in the absence of oxygen.

It’s also very easy to measure improvement.  Keep in mind, you have to be ever more careful as you improve.  With greater time and distance underwater, you will want to have a spotter and/or let the lifeguard know what you are up to.

Safety fact: underwater swimmer’s can drop into unconsciousness, but appear to continue swimming, as their arms and legs continue to rhythmically pull and kick.

Sprints With Bodyweight Exercises

Pick your swim distance (25 yards or 50 meters).  Pick a stroke.  Pick a body weight exercise and number of repetitions.  Sprint to the end of the pool (or to the end of the pool and back).  Quickly and carefully get out of the pool and up on the deck.  Complete your body weight exercises.  Get back into the pool, sprint, repeat.  Remember, pool decks are slippery.  You want to pick bodyweight exercises that are stable.  This is not the time for burpees, handstand push-ups, or pistols.

Let’s run through a few examples:

(25 yard freestyle sprint / 25 push-ups) x 4 = 1 set

(25 yard freestyle sprint / 25 push-ups / 25 yard freestyle sprint / 50 flutter kicks) x 2 = 1 set

(25 yard butterfly sprint / 25 push-ups / 25 yard backstroke sprint / 25 body weight squats / 25 yard breaststroke sprint /50 flutter kicks / 25 yard freestyle sprint / chair dips) = 1 set

You get the idea…lots of possible combinations.

Add Some Resistance

Put on a sweat shirt, get in the pool, now swim.  Not easy.  Once you get good at swimming with the sweat shirt, add sweat pants.  Need some more resistance, put on your favorite pair of Chuckie T’s and do it all over again.  The sneakers add weight and decrease the efficiency of your kicking.  This is an old school workout that never goes out of style.

Fun With Dive Bricks

A standard dive brick weighs 10 pounds.  The easiest way to work with one is to swim across the pool while holding the brick with both hands.  At first, you will need to keep the brick close to your body.  Eventually you will be able to hold it out in front, while you kick across the pool.  Doing this works your core and taxes your cardiovascular system.

Individual Relays

For these relays, rather than switching swimmers, switch to a different piece of gear with each sprint.  I like to use a kick board, a pull buoy, and hand paddles.  Get in the pool.  Leave your hand paddles behind.  Use the kick board to carry the pull buoy to the other end of the pool.  Once you get there, put the kick board on the deck, grab the pull buoy and sprint back.  When you touch the wall, swap the pull buoy for the hand paddles.  Drop off the hand paddles and freestyle sprint back…grab the pull buoy…keep cycling through.

Drown Proofing

This is an exercise made famous by the US Navy SEALs.  It’s very easy to explain.  Head to the deep end of the pool.   Keep your hands behind your back.  Exhale and drop to the bottom.  Kick off the bottom of the pool.  As you break through the water’s surface, take a full deep breath.  Sink back to the bottom, by controlling your exhalation.  Kick off the bottom.  Repeat.  If you get a good rhythm going, you can do this exercise for extended periods of time, longer than you can tread water…hence the name.

The Dreaded Water Bottle

Last, but not least, the dreaded water bottle.  Take an empty 5 gallon water bottle to the deep end of the pool.  Sink it.  Swim down to the bottle, lift it above your head, kick off the bottom of the pool, then hold the bottle above your head and in the air until all of the the water in the bottle drains out.

If you are like me, that is to say, without a massive upper body or particularly strong legs, then technique is your friend.  I follow a three step approach for solving this puzzle.  In the early stage, while the bottle is mostly full, kick to the top, hold the bottle above the surface, drain some water, then use the weight of the bottle, to drive you back to the bottom.  Rebound off the bottom of the pool, surface, and let some more water out.

The middle stage is the toughest.  The bottle is 1/3 to 1/2 empty.  It is no longer negatively buoyant.  So, you have to tread water with the bottle above your head, but the weight from the bottle, keeps your face beneath the surface.  Remain calm, as you kick furiously and your lungs burn, water will slowly drain from the bottle and you will start to rise.

If you don’t lose your focus, you can initiate the third phase by rotating the bottle.  As you rotate the bottle, the water will start to circulate.  The swirling action increases the rate that water drains from the bottle (or, maybe it just gives you something other than your lungs to focus on).  As the water drains and the bottle lightens, you can switch it to one hand, relax a little bit and enjoy the oxygen you are now able to pull into your lungs.  This is a great exercise at the end of a workout, as it is both a mental and physical challenge.

Time to Hit the Local Pool

There you have it, seven fun ways to work on your tan and your conditioning at the same time.

***

For related STRETCH EXERCISE EAT posts SEE:

The Past, Present, and Future of Interval Training

Sleep Your Way To Better Physical and Mental Performance

DIY Fitness Gear – Sandbag 101

EXERCISE: On the Road

Road_atlanta_esses*Maintaining healthful practices while traveling can be difficult.  This post discusses exercise while on the road.

Note: For a discussion of healthful eating while traveling see EAT: On the Road.

Photo by: Spyder Monkey

*I am terrible about exercising when traveling.  There is something about hotel beds that keeps me from wanting to get out of them.  Or, maybe it’s being on vacation that puts my body into full recovery mode.  Either way, regular exercise suffers.

*Richard Lord gave me a simple solution for this problem…bring your jump rope.  Besides being the high priest of core/abdominal/mid-section strength, Richard loves the jump rope.  A speed rope is light and easy to pack.  Jumping rope does not require a gym, any flat surface will do.  It works your whole body and provides a cardio workout.

*Runners also have an advantage when traveling.  Just pack your running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt and you are set.  Plus, it gets you out and about in the area you are visiting.  Runner’s World lists interesting routes to run in many cities.  Their route finder tool is a great resource to turn to, when planning a trip.

*My favorite trick for making sure that I get some exercise while on the road is to plan an outdoor activity in the area being visited.  This works great, because it gets you into the local environment, adds to your travel experience, and is not a routine workout.  While in Texas, I was able to get in two canoe trips.  Paddling around the lake meant lots of sun and lots of upper body work.  Meanwhile, Alex, our creative consultant here at SEE, focused on learning to knee board.

Is there some daylight under that board?

Is there some daylight under that board?

*In Hawaii, there were lots of opportunities for outdoor activities.  One morning, Alex and I swam out through the surf and back.  Eileen and Katarina went snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.  Another day, Eileen and I hiked up Diamond Head Crater.

Diamond Head-Pullups
Hiking up Diamond Head – Time Out for L-Sit Pull-ups

*What I failed to do was get to a hotel gym, but this is another option for exercise on the road.  Eileen did go to the gym at the Marriott Waikiki and had an excellent report for their facilities.  I had a great conversation with Darren, a true road warrior, about staying fit on the road.  He has lots of great insights about eating right and working out while traveling for business.  So, stay tuned for his comments on these topics.

*One last note, the first WoW (Workout of the the Week) is up.  Have fun with it!

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EAT: Nootropics

GarpenBrain*Hack your brain for improved performance in the gym.

Photo by Garpenholm

*Throughout law school, I experimented with different methods for improving performance on exams.  I used standard memory hacks like mnemonics.  But, I also recorded outlines for courses, then played them back while isolated in a tanning booth (exposure to high levels of light during the winter months is a mood enhancer).  Immediately before an exam, I would do handstand pushups to get blood flowing to my brain.  When studying for the Texas bar, I took 500 mg of Niacin before each morning study session.  Before each afternoon study session, I drank a cup of brain tea (a blend of tea with ginkgo biloba).

*Did these efforts to hack my mental performance work…was I overclocking my brain…maybe.  My study partner Jay and I worked for hours before exams and the Texas bar.  We did not just review the material, we studied actively by taking practice exams under exam conditions, using a timer and when available, the classroom the exam would be given in.  Niacin and gingko biloba were not substitutes for hard work.

*Nootropics are substances which enhance memory and cognition.  Improvements in brain performance are derived from increased availability of neurochemicals, improved flow of oxygen to the brain, or by stimulating nerve growth.  In the example above, gingko biloba and niacin are both vasodilators, which increase oxygen flow to the brain (500 mg of niacin has my face tingling and flushed as the blood vessels in my head open up).  The most famous nootropics are the racetam family of drugs, which improve the function of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Piracetam is the best known and most tested of these.  It is available for purchase as a supplement.

*The nervous system is a key component in physical performance.  Improved concentration helps you focus on the skill portion of your workout.  Elevated mood means greater effort.  A healthy nervous system strengthens the connection between nerves and muscles and improves the flow of information necessary for muscle growth.

*Meditating before a race or getting fired up with your team before heading onto the field are designed to improve physical performance by focusing concentration or elevating mood.  Nootropics can have similar effects.  Of course, the benefits gained must be measured against the side effects.  Thus, where some people swear by a jolt of caffeine before a workout, too much caffeine leaves me a jangly mess and would ruin my exercise session.

*Recently, prior to workouts, I have been experimenting with the following stack: B-6 (neurotransmitter synthesis), B-12 (energy production), soy lecithin (choline source – precursor to acetylcholine), and gingko biloba (vasodilator).  I had also included ginseng, but like caffeine, it had a strong impact on my nervous system and I have discontinued its use.

*My anecdotal results have been positive.  I have noticed greater concentration during exercise and improved anticipation, and planning during sparring.  Could this be my imagination…of course.  As with exam performance, hard work is the key…but little tweaks can make a difference.

*What are your best mind hacks for improved mental performance?

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STRETCH: Good Morning

sanddunes_sunriseThis is the first post for this blog.  Feedback greatly appreciated!  Or just say “hi” with a quick comment.  I thought that we could start at the beginning.  So, this post includes information from my basic morning routine.

Stretching, it’s the first thing that your dog or cat does when it wakes up.  After getting out of bed, you probably stand up and reach for the sky.  You are already on the right track.  Just standing on your toes and brining your hands above your head helps to start lengthening your muscles.

Each morning, I go through a set of joint mobility exercises The Maxwell Daily Dozen.

Here is the routine that I run through in the morning, with +/- ten forward and ten reverse:

—Relaxed Neck Circles

—Wrist circles –> Small Arm Circles –>Medium Arm Circles –> Full Arm Circles

—Hula Hoop Circles

—Qi Gong Waist Twister

—Spinal Wave

—Lateral Bending

—Knee Circles

—Ankle Circles