Archive for May, 2010

The Blood Is Pumping

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

With G4 running all the episodes of the first American Ninja Warrior yesterday on TV, my blood is majorly pumping.  Watching these great competitors lay it out there running through the opening round, the semifinals, and then the finals I was bouncing on my toes trying to control the adrenaline.  Although I’m not actually ready to go yet, I am ready to go.  I had to pop up on the walls in my front hallway to practice the spider jump just to get everything back in control and properly channeled.

With the American Ninja Warrior marathon on TV yesterday, I had a huge spike in traffic to my little blog here.  90 people checked it out yesterday, woohoo!  I wonder what people think…

A Pound a Week

Friday, May 28th, 2010

It’s been 7 weeks since I started this blog, and since I weighed myself and unhappily discovered that my weight had crept up to 227 lbs.  With so many of the obstacles in Ninja Warrior tests of relative upper body strength, I quickly determined that in order to be competitive one of the key pillars of my training program had to be some basic weight reduction.  Although I know at this point I’ll never be the light rangy athlete some of these free-runners are, who are amazing combinations of coordination, sinew, and strength, I figured that if I could drop 10% of my body weight to get down to about 204 I’d have accomplished something.  That said, I wanted to lose weight within the framework of my overall training goals of increasing strength and cardio, so was/am not willing to do any crash fad diet with the sole goal of weight loss.  I’d rather be a hearty 220 lbs and feeling strong than down to 200 lbs but light-headed from effort because I starved myself.

That leadin paragraph above I suppose is partly my justification for dropping weight over these last 7 weeks at a slower rate than necessary to achieve my goal.  Even though I’ve significantly improved my diet, lowered my caloric intake, and have increased my cardio training, I’ve only dropped to 220 lbs.  Just a pound a week.  With the competition in early August, about 9 weeks away, if I continue this rate I’d only get to 211 lbs.  That would be pretty good I guess, better than nothing, but I’d still feel that somehow I’d failed in one of my key training goals.  I do feel slimmer and fitter though, so I suppose that’s the true metric, but since I was specific enough to put out the goal of a 10% weight loss, I do feel some competitive drive to hit it.

Training Plan

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Now that my video has been submitted hoping to earn a guaranteed spot, I’m turning my full attention to actual training.  It’s easy to just play the waiting game, not committing myself to the training until/unless I get that sought-after invite, but I have no idea when I’d hear from G4 if I am destined to hear from them at all.  What I’m fearful will happen is I just drum my fingers waiting for an invite, and then in a couple of months I actually DO get an invite, but find myself with only a few weeks to prepare before the competition.  To keep my sanity, and to give myself the best chance on the course if I do get invited, I’ve decided to adopt the mind-set that I WILL compete and just start training as if that were already a certainty.  Sort of like using the Jedi Mind trick on yourself…you will compete, you will compete.  These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

So what is my training plan then, you ask?  It’s pretty simple…since I don’t have a Ninja Warrior course replica in my backyard, or anywhere here in New Mexico, I’ve decided to focus on a few key concepts:

GRIP STRENGTH & ENDURANCE – There is no substitute for a kung fu iron grip.  Jumping and grabbing stuff, swinging and grabbing stuff, grabbing stuff and climbing…there is a lot of grabbing stuff and supporting your entire body weight.  This is why my buddy Ron and I got into rock-climbing a couple of years ago when we began our Ninja Warrior quest.  There is no substitute for a kung fu iron grip.  My grip strength is pretty strong from climbing, but it can always get stronger, particularly related to stamina.  I go to the climbing gym twice a week now with Ron, and instead of focusing on completing climbing routes, we are focusing on increasing grip strength and endurance.  We do a lot of traverses (long horizontal routes) instead of short vertical ones.  We get back on the wall faster when we fall off, not resting up for our next attempt but trying to shock the muscles with insane new tests of endurance.  We also use a lot of the “training” features at the climbing gym, doing hands-only ladder climbs, working on the training board, whatever we can find.  Building up the kung fu iron grip is a major theme of our training.

GENERAL STRENGTH – In our grip strength and endurance training, we get a lot of general strength training in our arms, shoulders and back.  But beyond that we finish our climbing sessions with pull-ups, and I do various types of pushups at home on “off” days.  I’m not really lifting weights, just trying to focus on body weight exercises.  Not that I don’t think lifting weights would help…I just have limited time for training, and have to prioritize.

“BURST” CARDIO – As various competitors in Ninja Warrior have pointed out, it is not that any singular obstacle on the course is insurmountable, it is just that doing them one after another against the clock presents the major challenge.  Working on grip endurance helps a lot with this, but having strong “burst” cardio is essential.  I describe “burst” cardio as going full-out for 90 to 120 seconds, still able to find strength, coordination and focus when your heart rate is at max levels.  To do this, I do high-intensity-interval-training on the Precor machine (upper & lower body) and jumping rope.  I don’t need to run a marathon, just go flat-out for 2 minutes.

FLEXIBILITY – As you get older, you lose a little bit of the “bounce” in your step and ability to just intuitively hop, jump, skip, and run over obstacles.  When I was younger I had insane bounce…a 40 inch vertical and the ability to dunk in whatever creative way I could imagine.  I could jump like a pogo stick, and sprint like an NFL wide receiver.  Sadly, no longer.  The cardio work is helping me find some of the bounce again, and being rigorous with stretching is peeling back a few years of middle-age that have crept up recently.  The stretching also helps me with my periodically cranky back.  Being limber, fluid and bouncy will help me with the few obstacles that require running and jumping.

WEIGHT LOSS – As I’ve mentioned before, many of the course obstacles require you to support and shift your body weight with just your upper body.  While I’m confident that in terms of absolute strength of the key upper body muscles, I rank pretty favorably with the other competitors.  In terms of relative strength (strength over body weight) I’m a bit concerned.  At 227 lbs as weighed at the start of this quest a few weeks ago, I could well be the heaviest serious aspirant.  Dropping 10% of my body weight, losing goo and not muscle, is a key plan to getting a bit more competitive on the relative strength scale.  This would take me down to 204, the trimmest I’ve been in many years.  Hauling 204 lbs around the course instead of 227 lbs could be a key difference.  I’m wary though of any weight loss plan that might deprive my muscles of what they need to recover and strengthen, so my weight loss plan is simple:  (1) reduce portion size, (2) avoid high-sugar high-fat foods, and (3) don’t eat so much in the evenings after dinner.  On the first point, I’m just trying to stop eating when I feel full, and not plowing on to “clean my plate” as we’ve all been taught as kids.  On the second point, I’m just trying to be more conscious of the quality of food I put in my mouth…no more sugary drinks (like that caramel iced frappe I used to drink every afternoon), fatty fast food meals, nachos, milkshakes, etc.  On the last point, which sounds simple but is impactful, I’m trying not to really eat anything after 7 pm anymore except a fruit smoothie with fat-free sorbet and some whey protein.  Supposedly junk you put in your mouth right before you got to bed gives your metabolism fits.  That three-point program I hope will guide me to losing 23 lbs in the 4 months before the competition.

Now the planning is done, I just have to execute!  Wish me luck 😉

Only 20% Imply I Smoke Crack

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

About 4 weeks ago I posted a poll on this blog looking for honest feedback about whether I was off my rocker for thinking about competing in American Ninja Warrior, or whether I was being bold and “seizing the day” to try to fulfill a dream.  I got a rousing 20 votes on my poll, with an overwhelming 75% response picking the “Absolutely! Life is short! Go for it!” option in support of me going for it.  Thanks guys!

20% of the voters, however, thought I was nuts and picked the “Put down the crack pipe and slowly walk away” option.  I suppose there are naysayers in every crowd 😉

Just one person (5% of the total!) hedged with the “Maybe, only if you can avoid embarassing yourself” choice.  I personally thought more people would choose this option, as so many people seem to make life decisions based on what others will think of them, and based on a scientific avoidance of public embarassment.  I must admit, recently I’ve worried a bit about the prospect of training hard, putting myself out there in public to my friends and family, and then doing a horrific faceplant on the course that gets featured by G4 as “wipeout of the day”.  There’s no good that can come from letting this fear take too much frontal lobe space, so I’ll just banish it from my thoughts and try to visualize greatness bolstered by the 75% majority vote.

Updated Dates for ANW2

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

The G4 folk via their Ninja Warrior Facebook page just updated the expected dates for the American Ninja Warrior competition from the second half of July to the first half of August.  A little more training time for me!  Here is the exact post from the Ninja Warrior Facebook page:

“We’re currently in negotiations with the location, so unfortunately, I don’t have set dates yet. However, most likely it will be the first two weeks of August in Los Angeles. Definitely not June or July. If we get this location, it will be AWESOME though! We will let you know as soon as we can.”