Monday, May 25, 2009


A western Idaho oasis: This lovely little waterfall, with a small but inviting lagoon, rewards those who take a short but vigorous hike in Jump Creek Canyon.

If every day -- or even every third day -- could be like this year's Memorial Day, things would change, in a hurry, for the better.

As with most days I've recently suffered through, Memorial Day began at an obscenely early hour for me -- roughly 4:30 a.m. This time the culprit wasn't any of my half-dozen sleeping disorders; it was the kitten we obtained a couple of days ago, a Siamese mix with electric blue eyes that rival those of Megan Fox or Daniel Craig.

Scooped off the streets and nurtured to health by a neighbor, Sparkle (as we've named her in honor of a cat we briefly owned in 2005) is a temperamental little feline whose insistent mewling snaps me right out of my slumber. But then again, practically anything will.

Accordingly, when Sparkle very thoughtfully roused me on the wrong side of five o'clock, I decided to stay up and get some work done. I managed to finish most of today's "serious" blog essay before seven a.m. Even after the involuntary nap I took, I was left with some time to go to the gym, since I didn't have to worry about getting the kids to school.

Once at the gym I did my now-standard 20 minute sprint circuit on the elliptical trainer, which is quickly becoming my favorite piece of workout gear. I then followed a piece of advice from "Underground Strength Guru" Zach Even-Esh: I combined floor presses and front squats into a mass-generating workout.

Yes, the floor press is a variation on the lift about which I'm obsessed, the bench press. It differs in several significant ways:

*If done with flat legs (my preferred approach), the floor press emphasizes the upper body exclusively, since it's almost impossible to recruit the lower "core" or the legs in doing the lift -- and it's interesting to note how much that assistance is missed when one moves from the bench to the floor.

*The limited range of motion forces the lifter to concentrate on a dead stop, and to power out of the bottom position without the use of "elastic energy."

*That same limited range of motion helps the lifter avoid over-use of the anterior deltoid muscles, which tend to be overtrained when one focuses on the flat bench and traditional supplemental exercises (such as dumbbell flyes and presses).

The front squat is an exercise I've come to love. I hate doing conventional barbell squats; they tend to mess up my back, no matter how hard I try to maintain strict form. A decade ago I got heavily into the twenty-rep squat protocol, which actually minimized the damage because it was built around a single "work" set. I think sometime in the future I might try a variation on that approach with front squats.

My workout also included a rather dubious attempt at some inverted rows, which are an exercise to which I'm going to devote some time.

After the workout our family packed up and drove out to Jump Creek Canyon. A very brief but invigorating hike took us to a lovely waterfall, and made me regret that we had neglected to bring swimming attire. Poor little Sophia was given an unpleasantly instructive introduction to stinging nettles, and so we had to cut our trip just a little short.

The only thing missing from the day's activities was an opportunity to do some calisthenics and some hill sprints. But spending most of the day in vigorous, enjoyable exercise was a terrific and badly overdue change of pace.

Tomorrow I plan on doing some deadlifts, power cleans, push press, and some bodyweight routines. Hopefully, Memorial Day will represent a badly needed change of direction, and help me gain some useful momentum toward getting back in decent shape.


Doc Ellis said...

Nice to read this...

mongol Doc Ellis 124

Doug Gibson, Steve Stones said...

Will, I spent an hour reading your blog. I admire your candor on your professional, family and personal life. I hope you keep a journal. This may be a very readable memoir sme day. I hope your wife improves.
Doug Gibson