Saturday, January 30, 2010

Let The Transformation Begin!

The Turbulence Training Transformation, that is. The Transformation program is one of the two more advanced programs I acquired a couple of days ago, and it looks like a pretty good fit for me at the moment. There's a Workout A, a Workout B and a Workout C, each of which is meant to be done once a week, with at least a day off in between. The energy systems work consists of either "bodyweight cardio" or shuttle sprints, no cardio equipment needed, so it's a good program for home exercisers although if you want to do the shuttle sprints indoors you'll need a room or hallway at least 20 feet long.

Shuttle sprints, in case you haven't encountered them before, are a type of SAQ (speed, agility, quickness) drill. You simply mark off your distance, sprint from one end to the other, touch down, sprint back to the start, touch down, and repeat until you've gone the desired distance or time. These are excellent to do if you play any kind of sport that requires quick directional changes, and they're also a lot of fun, especially if you do them at home and have a cat or dog that likes to help. My cat Dino is a big fan of shuttle runs, although he prefers to do them at 3:00 am when Mr. Tactical Ballerina and I are trying to get some sleep.

On my off-days I will be practicing get-ups and swings. I've been dealing with some joint issues lately and I think these are the drills that will help me most, along with lots of foam rolling and omega-3 fatty acids to help with inflammation. I'm making other lifestyle changes as well, trying to limit my exposure to xenoestrogens so as to keep my hormones as balanced as they can be at my time of life.

Speaking of which, the closer I get to 50 the more important it seems to be for me to be active almost daily. Even on days when my hands hurt so much I can't grip a kettlebell for more than a few short sets of swings, I at least try to do that much because if I don't my hips and back won't be at all happy with me. Besides, I seem to lose fitness faster now when I take time off, and it doesn't come back as quickly as it once did. That's probably because I have a lot of days when I'm not feeling 100 percent. I try not to skip workouts unless I'm truly ill, but I find I often have to modify. But that's okay. It's not like I've got any fitness goals that I need to reach by a date certain. At this point I just want to feel as good as I possibly can.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Turbulence Training 3-for-1 Sale

If you're a Turbulence Training fan but not currently a member it might interest you to know that Craig Ballantyne is offering a sale on his Turbulence Training workouts for January 2010. Yep, that's "workouts," not "workout." For $19.95 you get access to two fairly advanced programs as well as one, Total Torso Training (or something like that), that's suitable for newbies who need to build a base of core stability and cardiovascular fitness before moving on to more advanced workouts. You also get 30 days' access to the member forums, which are great if you have questions about the workouts, or just want some social support. The only catch is that you do need to cancel within the 30 days or your membership will automatically renew at a cost of $19.95 a month. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing if you use the member forums, but if you don't you probably won't want to incur the extra charge.

I haven't read over the programs in any great detail, but they look like the usual good stuff from Craig. I am a big fan of his, not so much because his programs are the most innovative or effective in an absolute sense, but because they are easy to stick with. The exercises tend to be pretty straightforward old-school stuff that doesn't call for a lot of fancy equipment; in fact, if you've got a few sets of dumbbells and a stability ball at home you don't even need a gym membership. If by some chance you don't already know how to do the exercises, detailed instructions with photos are provided, along with video demonstrations you can download at the Turbulence Training website.

So far my only caveat is that if you decide to do the Turbulence Traning 2K10 Workout you probably should have some prior experience with kettlebells OR plan to modify. That's because Workout A of the program finishes up with 10 minutes of kettlebell swings, 40 seconds on and 20 seconds off. That kind of density is not appropriate for someone who's new to kettlebells. My recommendation for beginners would be to do 20 swings followed by one minute of active recovery, for 12 minutes, as per Enter The Kettlebell. Then when that starts to seem easy, either add reps or shorten your active rests. And be sure you've got good form! If anything other than your butt (and maybe your lats) feels tender after a swing workout, you're probably doing something wrong and should check in with a certified kettlebell instructor for some pointers. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm like a broken record. But you know I'm right.)

Update: But wait! There's MORE!!! (Am I having a RonCo moment or what?) If you order the 3 for 1 package you'll also get access to the Turbulence Training monthly workout for February, which just became available today. It looks to be an interesting one, with a new interval protocol involving 8 second sprints. Yep, you read that correctly.

There are some other bonuses as well, but if you've ever been a Turbulence Training customer in the past you've probably already downloaded them.

No steak knives, though, and no World's Smallest Juicer. Bummer.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Why Kettlebell Training Has Not Taken Over The World

If you're a fitness pro or kettlebell fan you've probably heard about the recent ACE study verifying that kettlebell training burns up to 20.2 calories per minute, which is roughly equivalent to the calorie burn you'd get from running 6-minute miles (fun!) or cross-country skiing uphill (whee!).

So why aren't more people training with kettlebells?

For much the same reason that more people aren't running at 6 mph or cross-country skiing uphill. None of these workouts is exactly entry-level. I know a lot of novice runners, but I don't know any who can sustain a 10 mph pace for more than a few minutes. Likewise I've seen enough kettlebell newbies to know that very few would be capable of doing the workout performed by the test subjects in the ACE study.

Let's take a closer look at that study. The test subjects varied in terms of age, gender, bodyweight and experience level, but none was a kettlebell novice. The workout protocol was lifted straight from Kenneth Jay's Viking Warrior Conditioning: timed sets of kettlebell snatches, 15 seconds of effort followed by 15 seconds of rest, repeated for 40 total rounds, or 20 minutes. The kettlebells used were 12, 16 and 20 kilos depending on the test subject's gender, size and experience level. Good times. And all in a day's work(out), if you've been training with kettlebells for a while. If you haven't and you were to try this workout, you'd end up with shredded hands and banged-up forearms at best, a dislocated shoulder or wrenched back at worst. It's not that kettlebells are inherently unsafe, any more than running is inherently unsafe. But just as running with a faulty gait causes injuries, so too does using kettlebells with poor technique. And just as runners who try to add miles too quickly end up with overuse injuries, so too do kettlebell users who try to do too much too soon.

I'm not trying to discourage anyone from getting started with kettlebells. Rather, I'm just counseling the use of a little common sense. Keep your expectations reasonable, and don't plan on burning 20 calories a minute right away. Perfect your technique, then work on adding volume, always stopping one or two reps short of complete fatigue. Be patient and persistent, and before long you will be able to perform the ACE study workout and reap the calorie-burning muscle conditioning benefits of this amazing form of exercise!