Posts Tagged ‘weight’

State of the Union – American Ninja Warrior 3 Prep

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

I’ve had many people ask me, mostly people from my “regular life” who were quite surprised by my participation in American Ninja Warrior 2, if I planned on continuing my obsession to compete in Ninja Warrior. Most of them I guess thought it would be a one-time “one and done” type of experience, and that a middle-aged dad of three like me would be happy just to have had the experience. Let me be clear…I ain’t done by a long shot!

I realize that getting accepted to compete in American Ninja Warrior 3 this summer is going to be tougher than ever. G4 did a fantastic job with the production and promotion of the show, and now more people than ever want to compete, meaning both getting accepted into the competition and then outperforming these tough competitors on the actual course is an increasingly tall order. I hope hope hope that they let me in to compete again! I’ve been working hard training and adding new skills, and plan on getting my application video together in the next few weeks to submit.

As I stand on the precipice of another run at my dream, I thought I’d give an honest assessment of where I am in my preparation. I’ll use the same structure as my original training plan, although I’ll be making some subsequent tweaks I believe once I complete my submission video and transition into hard-core training mode.

GRIP STRENGTH & ENDURANCE – To quote myself, there is no substitute for a kung fu iron grip.  Jumping and grabbing stuff, swinging and grabbing stuff, grabbing stuff and climbing a lot…it is part of the DNA of Ninja Warrior.  This would have been my strongest relative area entering the last competition if I hadn’t been sporting an injured hand.  Anyway, my hand healed nicely in the couple of months after the competition last August, and I’d regained by grip strength training at the rock-climbing gym a couple of days a week through the fall, but then unfortunately flared up a nasty case of tendinitis in my left shoulder from over-training.  I tried to force through it, but that only made it worse.  Eventually I was forced to lay off the rock-climbing and weight-training for a couple of months at the beginning of this year, with the expected side-effect of losing strength and endurance (particularly endurance).  So, I am behind where I want to be, but since my shoulder is mostly healed and this is a relative strong point anyway, I’m not too concerned about being up to snuff for competition as long as I can stay healthy.

GENERAL STRENGTH – See point above about having to lay off the training for a couple of months until a few weeks ago.  I’m behind where I want to be in general, but not too far.  I do need to focus more on leg strength specific to the Spider Jump/Wall, which is where I fell in the last competition.  I’m been working on this while my shoulder has been healing through parkour and some calisthenics, but I really need to jam here because the Spider Jump/Wall must be mastered!

“BURST CARDIO” – I think I’m actually pretty good here.  Last year I was just hitting the cardio machines at the gym for a couple of insane 30 minute workouts a week, and had great overall cardio, but what I didn’t have was that very short intense cardio that obstacle courses require.  My parkour training has given me great conditioning for this I think, as we do a lot of short burst stuff hitting the obstacle courses they set up for us.  I think I could still get better here, no doubt, but I’m better than I was last year I think.

FLEXIBILITY – This flexibility goal was key in both conditioning my body against injury (particularly my old cranky back) and for regaining some lost speed and bounce from younger days.  I’ve definitely been failing here…I need to not only stretch more, but maybe find a way to go to yoga once a week which has made a big difference for me historically.  But time in my life is at a premium these days between kids, some family stuff, and starting a new business, and I’ve been failing to get this done.  I need to focus more energy here, particularly as my cranky back has been acting up again recently.  The silver lining here is that due to my parkour training I have decent bounce and speed in my legs again.  Not quite sure if I can dunk again…might have to try that for the application video.

WEIGHT LOSS – I’m not at my target weight for the last competition, which was 205, but I am at my actual competition weight of about 214.  Given that I started last year at 227, and went up to about 222 over the scrumptious winter holidays, I’m glad to be “starting” my stretch run training much closer to my goal.  If I can compete at 205 I’d be pretty elated, even though this is still significantly heavier than most of the other competitors.

So, in total, I’ve got some work to do!  Closer to being competition ready than I was when I started last year, but not where I ultimately want to be.  The good news is that there’s time and my shoulder has recovered, so I’m ready for the stretch run, reinforced by the hope that they’ll actually let me in!

Two Week Countdown Checkup

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Since getting my official invite about a week ago I’ve filled out a bunch of paperwork for G4, and I believe am all locked and loaded to go to Venice Beach for American Ninja Warrior 2 in just two weeks.  Since I laid out a pretty detailed 5 point preparation program, I thought it would make sense to review my status on each of those tracks as I make my final preparations to compete in two weeks.

GRIP STRENGTH & ENDURANCE – I said at the beginning that there was “no substitute for a kung fu iron grip”, and that is still the case.  I was doing great in preparation for this until about three weeks ago when I strained my left hand during a climb.  After just trying to “train through it” for a while, I realized that I need to rest it, treat it, and rehab it if I was going to be able to run the course in Venice Beach.  After resting and treating it the last couple of weeks, including acupuncture twice (needles in the back of your hand hurts!), yesterday I worked out on it in some specific obstacle training and was happy to find that the strength has returned, although there is still some pain.  But as long as the strength is back, I can swallow the pain as long as I know I’m not doing further damage.

GENERAL STRENGTH – Feeling good, have been training harder and keeping to my plan for this.  Not trying to add muscle mass, but improve general strength.  Been doing a lot of core work too here, which has been great.

BURST CARDIO – Doing more here in the last couple of weeks, particularly since I’ve had to lay off my hand, and have been working hard at maintaining topline sustained cardio.  Been jumping some rope here old school too.

FLEXIBILITY – Have made great strides here.  Doing cardio more frequently and some heavy-duty stretching a few times a week have made me more flexible than I think since I was a teenager.  Didn’t even have to go to yoga to do it 😉

WEIGHT LOSS – Ummm…not so great here.   At the moment I am 216…11 pounds lighter than where I started three and a half months ago.  13 pounds shy on my goal of 203 which would have represented a 10% weight loss.  If I can get down to 210 for the event I’ll be feeling pretty good, but that’s still 6 pounds in the next two weeks.  Don’t know if I can do it, but I honestly only care a little bit about it at this point.  I’ve done what I could 😉

With two weeks to go, the only thing that really matters is getting my hand right so I can compete at 100%.  Weight, flexibility, etc., don’t matter a thing compared to that.

Still Waiting, Hand Jacked, Losing Weight

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Man, still haven’t heard from G4 whether I have an invite or not.  Neither has anybody else, aside from last year’s competitors who have been selectively contacted.  But no new applicants have been invited yet.  The event is less than 4 weeks away.  Going crazy!

My hand is sort of jacked up right now, hurt it climbing.  Not so bad that I wouldn’t compete, and it is definitely getting better, but that’s the last thing I need right now.  Got acupuncture last week which definitely helped, and will get another session later this week.  It is actually fine for Ninja Warrior obstacles, just the small crimpy holds for rock-climbing, my primary training exercise, are kind of painful.  I’ll be ready to go if called though!

After plateauing on the weight loss project at 220 (only 7 pounds down from where I started), my wife put me on the Atkins diet.  I’ve lost another 7 pounds in the last 10 days, and am feeling pretty good (not weak from weight loss), so I’m finally making progress.  Dieting sucks though, and I’ve been having MASSIVE food cravings.  Trying to be strong though 😉

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 😉