Monday, August 30, 2010

Building a "crucible"...for $200.00!

A few weeks ago a regular in our workouts here at The Crucible asked me if I thought it would be possible to build a workout center at his workplace using at hand materials and creating some workout tools using cinder blocks, PVC, sand and duct tape. We met, talked and looked at the space available. I saw endless possibilities.

However as with any business having a budget in mind is prudent. I could have said I needed an open account but instead rose to the challenge of building a dedicated workout space for this business with a budget of $200.00. I was given a challenge of endless possibilities!

Today we went shopping at Home Depot, The Crucible's favorite DYI fitness equipment store. On my way to meet my friend I stopped at the tire store and got two free used light truck tires and tossed them in the back of my truck.

I had a shopping list roughed out on paper and since my friend was familar with the guerilla style of training we do at The Crucible he was able to visualize how it would all come together much better than one who only uses a Globo-Gym or a fitness center for working out.

We bought the following:
(1) 4 inch diameter x 10 ft Corex Solid Drain Tile
(4) 4 inch Solid Corex Caps
(3) 1 inch diameter x 10 ft Schedule 40 pipe
(3) 10.5 foot lengths of chain link fence top rail
(1) 3 inch diameter x 10 foot Schedule 40 PVC pipe
(4) 3 inch PVC caps
(2) 2 inch diameter x 10 foot Schedule 40 PVC pipe
(8) 2 inch PVC caps
(1) 1.25 inch diameter x 10 foot Schedule 40 PVC pipe
(4) 1.25 inch PVC "T's"
(8) 1.25 inch PVC caps
(4) 1.25 inch PVC 90 degree elbows
(2) 8 foot lengths of 5/8 inch polybraid rope
(2) 3/8 x 4 inch eyebolts
(2) 3/8 split ring lockwashers
(2) 3/8 hex nuts
(2) 3/8 flat washers
(6) 8 x8 x16 cinder blocks
(4) 8 x 8 x 8 cinder blocks
(1) 2 ich x 27 foot webbing load tie down strap
(4) Spring Quick Links
200 pounds of sand
(2) rolls of duct tape
(1) box of #10 x 3/4 sheet metal screws

The total bill with tax came to $170.23 !

With it together we made the following:

(2) "Black Mambas" - using the Corex Drainage tile we filled them with sand to weigh 25 pounds each. These are great for carries, squats and much more.
(2) 25 pound PVC tubes using the 3 inch tubes and adding 17.5 pounds of sand.
(4) 2 inch PVC tubes adding sand to create 2 tubes weighing 15 pounds and 2 tubes weighing 10 pounds.


Filling the tubes. Remember to clean up your sand when done!

(2) Drag Tires made by drilling a 3/8 hole through the tire, placing the threaded eyebolt through the tire and double nutting in place. The 5/8 polybraid rope was tied in place to the eyebolt. Later my Iron Maiden will cut and sew three harness loops using the web load binder. Two of the spring clips will be used to secure the harness to the tire.


Partially done. You can see how the eyebolts are placed in the tires. The paralettes sit to the right of the tires and the top rail bars to the right of the paralettes.Some of the work sits in front of their paper and cardboard recycling bins. This company impresses me with its' true green approach. They have an indoor bike rack, there were a least 8 bikes racked there today, people heading out for lunch time rides and able to return for a shower, a very organized recycling system and a refrigerator filled with healthy snacks.

(1) pair of PVC paralettes using the 1.25 inch length of PVC, elbows, caps and tees.
(6) 1 inch 5 foot PVC movement and warm-up bars for practice and skill development.
(6) bars made by cutting the top rail in half. These bars can be used for warm-up, skill development and to hold cinder blocks for weight work. Full cinder blocks weigh 29 pounds, half blocks weigh 14 pounds. One can also use the 2 inch PVC as a bar if desired.
(2) 10 pound medicine "balls". These balls were made by putting 10 pounds of sand in a 1 gallon Zip-Loc bag, then placing in the empty bags from the sand we used to fill the tubes. Duct tape was used to wrap the sand into "balls".



Two of my three assistants take a moment from cleaning up to stand with their new "crucible" as they await our first workout of The Free Fitness Movement. The medicine "balls" sit in the foreground. They are good up to speeds of 250 mph.

Over the next few weeks I will be taking The Free Fitness Movement on the road, teaching classes, showing people that fitness need not be expensive, complicated or confusing, more importantly showing people that "fitness is the ability to engage in the day to day activities that bring one joy and happiness". What better way than to workout with everyday items one might have at home or have made themselves.

If you would like to learn more contact me via the e-mail address on the sidebar to the left.

Find your crucible!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Bar at The Crucible


The bar at The Crucible. Applied differently by each individual but never lowered in order to accept the "awful normal" of seeing everyone gets over it at the same height!

Now we are 15.

Students of Sparta, those beyond simply “300”, recognize the significance of the number 15. And while the Krypteia is perhaps a bit excessive the past few weeks have been a sort of agoge, to see who would answer the challenge.

The Crucible is not solely based in physical strength, in fact The Crucible encompasses not only physical strength but mental strength. Often “fitness clubs” will purport to provide motivation to their new members, this call to motivation is used as a marketing tool to generate revenue. After one joins a motivation numbing array of tools are used, t-shirts, waterbottles, new and exciting verbiage and so on when in reality what needs to be developed, fed and grown is the volition within the members of fitness clubs.

But I digress.

Rollins talks about true strength and we have seen this true strength here at The Crucible over the past few weeks. It is the individual who begins with a 14 pound cinderblock and progresses to a 25 pound sandbag. It is the family arriving prior to the 5:30 AM start time, helping set up and tear down on a summer morning when most teenage girls are sleeping in. It is the individual who is recovering from rotator cuff surgery and finds items to lift, his physical therapist calls to discuss with me what movements are appropriate and we plan the next weeks together. It is the individual who works until 11, arrives home, gets a few hours sleep and joins us, telling my Iron Maiden he can always nap later. It is this individual volition we celebrate, it is theirs alone. They should be proud of themselves.

Often one will be told by another they are proud for them. I understand where this comes from but truth be told only the individual can be proud of their accomplishments. I respect Kona Girl for all the work for she did to race Ironman Hawaii over a three year period (and she did well) but the pride in her accomplishment is hers alone. Not my pride, not the members of her triathlon club’s pride but the pride is hers alone. As in much in the same way we can share a meal together we do not digest the meal we have shared in a collective stomach. (Thanks Ayn Rand!)

Workouts at The Crucible remain free of charge as we are part of The Free Fitness Movement. To some the workouts being free indicates there is no value. The philosophy of The Crucible is not without value simply because it is free. It is for this reason we invite individuals to be part of our project. You can’t pay a monetary fee to join The Crucible. To preserve its’ value we have invited certain individuals to continue on with us. Keep in mind that The Crucible is not fixed, one may encounter their own crucibles in life but to say you have found it fixes one’s crucible and one’s crucible then ceases to test you. The invitation is not fixed, if we notice one is slacking off we’ll ask what’s up and look for a change. Either you fit or you don't.

The Fifteen. This may seem unfair and disappointing to some, but as I was complimented by a member of my UltraMan ohana following last weeks’ musing when she replied “way to stick to your guns and what a great policy”. If you were passed over and want to know why feel free to ask and we will reply to you privately.

In life we hold the key to our future. At times the key may not fit and the door may stick as one tries to open it. Throwing ones shoulder into a locked door will most likely result in leaving one with a sore shoulder. We are willing to open the door. If you think you hold a key to an invitation to The Crucible send us an e-mail to the address in the sidebar to the left with Training at The Crucible in the subject line. Tell us why you want to train with us and any other pertinent information you feel might be appropriate. Speculations, tire-kicking or requests for free advice will be deleted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Invitation Only



A sign you will never see in a fitness club or recreation center because you might hurt someones feelings... this sign came from The Gorilla Pit, a premier strength and conditioning facility in Ohio.

As we move into the next session here at The Crucible my Iron Maiden and I find ourselves moving to a shift in our “operation”, that of “invitation only” for our workouts.

The first eight weeks of our sessions have provided us with the opportunity to observe what we want in our workouts – we want workouts that are not merely going through the motions (tire kicking) but workouts that challenge us to “walk” faster.

In educational psychology the concept of walking faster is applied to those situations in which an individual is provided an appropriate challenge to their ability and the challenge is not lessened to accommodate the individual but rather the individual must walk faster in order to meet the challenge and move ahead to the next challenge. If they are not willing to walk faster they are left behind.

At one of our workouts a casual participant arrived well after the group had started the workout. One of the other individuals asked if we were going to wait for the late arrival. We did not, instead letting them walk faster to catch up. This is only one tenet of The Crucible philosophy.

At another workout a “fitness instructor” from another facility arrived almost 30 minutes late. I took the time out of my workout to briefly explain the workout to him. At the conclusion he had the gall and audacity to tell The Iron Maiden he felt the workout was ill-structured. Yes, I have mentioned this before because as friend of The Crucible, The Bertram Brawler, once told me “stupid people piss me off”. I agree. Needless to say this individual is welcome to stay where he is, pumping rubber bands fast and slow and doing crappy push-ups. The Bertram Brawler has received his invitation, the rubber band man will not be getting one.

At our last workout we worked through a series of movements as described in an earlier post. One of The Crucible Crew had completed his workout and moved to practicing on his own Horizontal Push. This individual always arrives early, prepared to work out and ready to explore where his limits are. He is courteous, bringing his own JumpStretch bands to share on our pull-up station. He has received his invitation.

We are not a fitness club or a recreation center. We are a philosophy contained within a gym. Fitness clubs and recreation centers represent the “awful normal”, of what life has become, a no child left behind world, where democracy is provided to all at the expense of excellence. In life everyone is offered the opportunity to “win”, we simply don’t feel the bar needs to be lowered time and time again so that everyone is a winner.

The Crucible is not about how much weight you can lift or how fast you can run. The Crucible is about finding out if one is willing to arrive prepared as opposed to merely arriving, expecting to be entertained, coddled and enabled. It’s for those who set 2 alarm clocks to be on time. It’s about beginning with one weight that you carry up the hill and asking if there is something heavier for your next trip up the hill. This is another tenet of the philosophy here at The Crucible, a process as well as a test of self-belief and will continue as such.

There are four free of charge workouts remaining in our series for August 2010. These are the last workouts that will be open to the general public. In September we will move to an “invitation only” (and still free of charge)format to ensure the quality of the workouts for all. (Some have a standing invitation, they know who they are and don’t need to ask) Merely attending the final four workouts and for a short time "walking faster" does not guarantee an invitation and once invited does not mean one is always invited. Not everyone is interested in The Crucible in the same way not everyone is material for The Crucible. We respect that and ask you do the same. Finally if you or someone you know would like an invitation they can send me an e-mail with “Training at The Crucible” in the subject line and we’ll review it. Requests for tips on how to tone your legs, how to do biceps curls or weight loss tips will be deleted.

Find your crucible.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"If it is important do it every day. If it isn't, don't do it at all."


The Iron Maiden takes notes after completing her workout at The Crucible. Her practice is continually evolving in addition to improving. Her practices are important to her.


“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.” I came across this quote, attributed to Olympic Gold medalist Dan Gable after purchasing and reading and rereading Coach Dan John’s book Never Let Go a few months ago. I keep finding myself coming back to this quote, the simplicity and complexity continues to make me muse on what I value in life.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

I kiss my wife goodbye as she leaves for work and again when she gets home. I make sure all my animals are fed before I eat and see that Brodie and Lennox are walked everyday.

I don’t watch The Biggest Loser, American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

I eat real food, drink water and enjoy a beer or three. Although I like Jack Daniels I don’t have a bottle in the house because it is just not that important.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

I workout every day. I lift weights, ride my bike, run or walk my dogs. There are times it is only for 30 minutes and I make it count in the same way I do with my longer workouts.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

A few years ago I was asked by a reader of my Friday Fitness Musings where I found the time to write a musing pretty much every week, especially when I don’t get paid for it. I told them I make the time, it is important to me, that every day I write down some thoughts , be it on a napkin, a scrap of paper or a notebook. Though folks have suggested I should write a book I find myself hesitant, for I wonder if such a course would take the enjoyment out of it and my writing would cease to be a pleasure. So I choose to not to write a book. It's not that important to me. Enjoying what I do is important is important to me.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all."

It is a common myth, misperception, falsehood and fallacy foisted upon the public by the “fitness industry” that working with a personal trainer will result in increased accountability, motivation and guarantee success. One local fitness club has the extreme audacity to claim that working with their trainers results in 100% success.

Rubbish. Pure rubbish.

If you want to be successful in reaching your fitness goals (or any goals for that matter) your success has to be more important to you than your trainer. You have to want it more than your trainer.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

Several years ago I was approached by a local fitness club to help develop a Yoga program for their facility. I looked at the offerings and times of other Yoga studios and then balanced the schedule I created. I took advantage of free advertising, I spoke personally with the members while working out and in 8 weeks for the first time in the clubs history had full Yoga classes with waiting lists. I took to writing a short, one page review of the classes after each class on my own time, sending it to each student via e-mail to better help them understand Yoga and create continued interest in the offerings. All on my own time for it was important to me to provide quality Yoga classes.

Later I taught a free 8 week session to our local Masters swim club. Even though I was in the final 10 weeks of my training for the UltraMan World Championships I made the time to schedule being there to teach prepared and on time for 8 weeks. Again I followed up each class with a review and sent them out via e-mail, encouraging the students to practice between classes. It was important to me.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

However it was easy to see who did not practice in between classes as I had asked. Perhaps it was not important to them. I did not ask. We are all adults here.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

8 weeks ago we expanded our project we call The Crucible to include workouts (not classes) that were free and open to the public. For several years we had been encouraged to open a gym, however we were hesitant for we did not see the numbers of dedicated individuals in our area to make such a project viable. Instead we approached it from a no frills direction. When we had some extra cash we would go shopping at Home Depot, Play It Again Sports or on Craigslist. Or dumpster dive for futon frames, gas pipe and chain link top rails. We spent time looking at other similar projects and after investing $600 and a significant amount of spare time our workouts were launched.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

A couple of years ago I was asked the following question by two friends: So here's the question we have for you: recognizing all the distractions and weaknesses inherent in people generally, if you were asked to design a useful, workable program for improving the health, fitness, and general well-being of the all the folks in your community, what would it look like?

It was an important question to me. I thought about it every day. My community. Fitness. Shifting the paradigm. Every day. It was an important question to me. From this question The Crucible Series was born. It was important to me to provide an avenue to that plan, one of a useful, workable fitness program for those in my community.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

I get up at 4:30 AM, have a cup of coffee, move the cars out of the driveway, select equipment, write the workout down on the chalkboard and am ready to lead the workout at 5:30 AM. I don't want accolades, praise or a certificate suitable for framing. It is important to me to be ready for those who find it important to arrive on time. After each workout I spend time, usually an hour or so evaluating the workout so that I can better teach the next time.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

I had noticed poor execution of push-ups by many participating in our workouts. It is important to me that people don’t get hurt when working out. Those who have trained with me know I am a technician in the weight room. I researched some videos on push-ups and sent a link to all those involved in the workouts, asking them to watch the video before Saturday. It was important to some, others it was not. For those who had watched the video the additional cues I provided further provided another layer of fitness and skill, it was important to reach those people. I will continue to do so in the future, if it is important to those involved they will watch them, read and practice.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

After leading last Saturday’s workout I did my own workout. At the end of the workout I grabbed a protein drink and practiced. I tried out different moves, seeing how I could better program the 9 movements on which The Crucible Series is based. I spent 90 minutes, taking notes, evaluating and refining for it was important to me. It is important to me to practice what I preach.

“If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

And now it is time to conclude this musing. There have been many people who have expressed interest and intention in our project. It will move no further than that. So it goes. Or perhaps doesn't go. Some choose fear as their only god, electing not to join us for they fear failure. Others express a desire to be continually notified of our workouts, ‘one day’, ‘next week’, ‘when the time is right’ and ‘ might attend’ are added in along with the request. Some have attended, albeit half-heartedly at best. I understand. It is a symptom of our society. However ultimately what is important to us determines our path. I can’t tell anyone what is important to them - only you can decide what is important to you. After all we are all adults here. Did I already say that?

It is important to me to respect those who find it important to practice, arrive on time and learn – for in that respect I am surrounded by those who want to succeed as opposed to those who would like to succeed. It is for this reason, in the philosophy of Zack Even Esh, The Crucible will be “locking its’ doors” in September.

For quite simply and yet complexly, “If it is important do it every day. If it isn’t, don’t do it at all.”

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Movements, not muscles

Five years ago when Clar and I began working on our project, The Crucible, it was preceded by over 25 years of practice. Keep in mind that not all practice yields the results one wants or wants to keep and practice is divided into many realms including that of deliberate practice.

Last winter Clar and I totaled all the hours I spent in the weight room and its' related environs since 1998 and it came up to well over 10, 000 hours. A typical day for me is to spend at least one hour in the weight room, not necessarily lifting weights for the specific purpose of gaining physical strength but also to gain an intellectual strength, one of understanding and bridging the movement to the science and back again. To answer this specific goal I would often spend 2 or more hours in my study, analyzing notes from my workouts and understanding how to effect the response I wanted in my own personal practice but also to be better able to help those looking for change effectively reach their goals.

As I now move into 30 years of training and racing, injury free - meaning I have never suffered an injury due to overtraining or misuse of my physical body I find my process refined through simplification. 27 iron distance triathlons, 3 double iron triathlons, 2 triple iron triathlons, 2 UltraMan Hawaii and 1 UltraMan Canada triathlon official finishes plus multiple bodybuilding wins and podium placings are all just numbers, it is the application of these numbers that matters.

2 weeks ago a local fitness instructor joined us for one of our sessions in The Crucible Series. This instructor (and Transformation Winner) teaches at a franchise fitness center where resistance tubes and kickboxing are the primary conditioning tools. After arriving almost 30 minutes late (and missing the instructions for the workout) he jumped in and worked out. His form and technique was at best abysmal, yet after the workout expressed his opinion that the workout was "ill structured". (Opinions are like noses, everyone has one...)

The issues of his late arrival and poor technique are perhaps subjects for a later post. After discussing his comment with Clar I have come to realize his opinion resulted from his inability to transfer the movements used in the workouts he teaches to our workouts here at The Crucible. He couldn't take a cinder block and say to himself "horizontal pull" the cinderblock as he did with a resistance tube at his fitness classes - transfer the rote and conditioned rubber tube shoulder exercise from the fitness center to a length of top rail from a chain link fence coupled with a log chain for "vertical push".

Movements, not muscles.

Coach Dan John emphasizes this in his book Never Let Go. On page 333 he presents The Big List, 9 movements that are amazingly simple to transfer into our everday life. Here they are:

1. Horizontal Push (Bench Press, Push-ups)
2. Horizontal Pull (Rows and Variations)
3. Vertical Push (Military Press and Variations)
4. Vertical Pull (Pull-up, Pulldown)
5. Explosive Full Body (Swings / Snatches / Cleans / Jerks)
6. Quad Dominant Lower Body (Squats)
7. Posterior Chain (Deadlifts)
8. Anterior Chain (Medicine Ball Ab Throw)
9. Rotational / Torque

Let me say it again: Movements, not muscles.

When I work with clients in The Crucible, as a bodyworker or in a Yoga class setting I often emphasize the beauty of the human body in movement, in that all movement is broken down into three groups as follows:

ABduction and ADduction
Flexion and Extension
Rotation

That's it. However like the 9 movements listed above in The Big List and the three above some actions are a combination of movements within the group, allowing one to get lots of "bang for the buck".

Our workouts in The Crucible will use these 9 movements in The Big List. At the beginning of each workout one of us will lead everyone through a series using a empty PVC pipe or top rail. I strongly suggest everyone who wishes to take part in the workouts purchase a 10 foot length of 2 inch PVC pipe and 2 caps. Cut the PVC pipe in half and take glue and screw one cap in place. Fill that pipe with 10 pounds of sand and glue and screw the second cap in place. Leave the other one empty. Use the empty pipe to practice the movements in The Big List. Everyday. Let the practice of the movements be part of your training, be it after a run or bike ride or on the day you lift on your own. For as Olympic gold medalist and coaching legend Dan Gable says "If it is important, do it everyday. If it isn't, don't do it at all".

To layer the fitness process we focus on the following:

1. Cardiovascular/respiratory endurance
2. Stamina
3. Strength
4. Flexibility
5. Power
6. Speed
7. Agility
8. Balance
9. Coordination
10.Accuracy

Currently we offer workouts at The Crucible 2 times per week to the public free of charge. If you come once a week and correctly practice everyday what you have learned through the week you will see gains and be able to transfer what you have learned. If you come once a week and that's all you invest that's all you are going to get. Basically nothing. (We already know what happens when you arrive late)

9 simple movements, be it with cinderblocks and log chains or a Olympic set.

Find your crucible.