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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Night of Oranges

Via The Art of Manliness:
By Flavius Stan

It is Christmas Eve in 1989 in Timisoara and the ice is still dirty from the boots of the Romanian revolution. The dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had been deposed a few days before, and on Christmas Day he would be executed by firing squad. I am in the center of the city with my friends, empty now of the crowds that prayed outside the cathedral during the worst of the fighting. My friends and I still hear shots here and there. Our cold hands are gray like the sky above us, and we want to see a movie.

There is a rumor that there will be oranges for sale tonight. Hundreds of people are already waiting in line. We were used to such lines under the former Communist Government-lines for bread, lines for meat, lines for everything. Families would wait much of the day for rationed items. As children, we would take turns for an hour or more, holding our family’s place in line.

But this line is different. There are children in Romania who don’t know what an orange looks like. It is a special treat. Having the chance to eat a single orange will keep a child happy for a week. It will also make him a hero in the eyes of his friends. For the first time, someone is selling oranges by the kilo.

Suddenly I want to do something important: I want to give my brother a big surprise. He is only eight years old, and I want him to celebrate Christmas with lots of oranges at the table. I also want my parents to be proud of me.

So I call home and tell my parents that I’m going to be late. I forget about going to the movie, leave my friends, and join the line.

People aren’t silent, upset, frustrated, as they were before the revolution; they are talking to one another about life, politics, and the new situation in the country.

The oranges are sold out of the back doorway of a food shop. The clerk has gone from anonymity to unexpected importance. As he handles the oranges, he acts like a movie star in front of his fans.

He moves his arms in an exaggerated manner as he tells the other workers where to go and what to do. All I can do is stare at the stack of cardboard boxes, piled higher than me. I have never seen so many oranges in my life.

Finally, it is my turn. It is 8 o’clock, and I have been waiting for six hours. It doesn’t seem like a long time because my mind has been flying from the oranges in front of me to my brother and then back to the oranges. I hand over the money I was going to spend on the movie and watch each orange being thrown into my bag. I try to count them, but I lose their number.

I am drunk with the idea of oranges. I put the bag inside my coat as if I want to absorb their warmth. They aren’t heavy at all, and I feel that this is going to be the best Christmas of my life. I begin thinking of how I am going to present my gift.

I get home and my father opens the door. He is amazed when he sees the oranges, and we decide to hide them until dinner. At dessert that night, I give my brother the present. Everyone is silent. They can’t believe it.

My brother doesn’t touch them. He is afraid even to look at them. Maybe they aren’t real. Maybe they are an illusion, like everything else these days. We have to tell him he can eat them before he has the courage to touch one of the oranges.

I stare at my brother eating the oranges. They are my oranges. My parents are proud of me.

May you always eat oranges at Christmas. Peace be with you!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Injury Workout

I sprained my left knee during our last performance of The Santa Claus Caper (see here for details). This put a damper on my original plan of training three days in a row before I leave for Christmas vacation with my girlfriend. Instead, I created a quick routine to hit the major muscle groups not connected to my left leg.

T = 55'00''

2 Circuits Total:
Door Pullups = BWx3x3x3
Pistols (wall assist) = BWx8x8x8
Rope Rows = BWx5x5x5
Pushups+Scapula Pushups = BWx15+10x15+10x15+10
Single Leg RDL = 16kg x10x10x10

This was a surprisingly intense session. I took care not to re-injure my knee and still managed to work up a decent sweat.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Max Reps #3

Very good session. Felt strong and in control.

T = 60'00''

Overhead Press = 80# x 44 @ 5-min
Bent-over Row = 50# x 35 @ 2-min ea.
Goblet Squat = 50# x 60 @ 5-min
Cable Pull-Throughs = #8 x 98 @ 5-min
Barbell Wrist Extensions = 25# x 40 @ 5-min

The show I am currently cast in is almost over (see here for details) and that means a loss of 5-10 hours of physical activity per week. I will need to make up that time to maintain a high energy flux.

Alwyn Cosgrove's recent newsletter outlined a variety of methods for using weighted resistance to create a metabolic training effect. He suggests timed sets, EDT, complexes, Tabata and various other protocols.

Over the next few days, I will need to incorporate some of Cosgrove's methods into my training program to compensate for the change in Calorie expenditure after the show closes. I have been noticing an improved physique and major strength gains over the last few weeks and I'm not about to loose those gains!

I'm still training for the powerlifting meet on March 1st and will need to periodize my training program for January and February.

Until next time,
Merry Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

Get Out Of The Gym!

Last Friday, I went rock climbing with my friend Jaci at Lakeview Athletic Center. This was my first time climbing (ever!) and I didn't know if I had the appropriate level of physical conditioning to scale the rock wall. I knew that my finger and grip strength was going to be pushed to the limit, but I didn't realize how quickly fatigue sets in under such a constant isometric contraction as holding on to a rock wall.

It was slow going (I needed to rest every few feet), but I did make it to the top of the four-story wall and am very proud to say that I touched the top.

Rock climbing was the best forearm workout I've had in a long while and the DOMS that followed lasted most of the weekend. I've wanted to go rock climbing for a some time now, but didn't know if I would actually enjoy it. Well, it's safe to say that rock climbing is awesome and immensely beneficial to my personal training program. Eventually, I would like to scale a real rock face.

I've come to believe that every client (and coach for that matter) needs to be physically active beyond the time spent training in the gym. Go on a hike; sail a boat; rock climb—just do more than you're doing now! The benefits go far beyond Non-Exercise Physical Activity. You can explore the world and connect with friends; see and experience things you've only seen on television or the internet; and return to work on Monday with an amazing story.

Hate "The Outdoors?" Attend a dance class or learn ninjutsu.

No money? Weed the lawn by hand, then re-organize the garage. After that, plant some tomatoes.

It doesn't matter what you do, so long as you're up and about while doing it!

Me? I've been grappling with friends every week for the past few months. None of us are professionals, but we spar and learn and sweat and get better each time we meet. I'm also looking into Reality-Based Self-Defense techniques and just learned a series of finger locks that are surprisingly effective.

The point here is that all this physical activity adds up quickly. Not only is it a great way to burn extra Calories, but you may learn a new skill along the way.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Training Log: Max Effort

First training day in a week due to painfully tight muscles in my right shoulder complex. Still not fully recovered, but a good day nonetheless.

T = 80'00''

Unilateral Dumbbell Bench Press = 60#x5x5x5
Assisted Wide-grip Pullups = -BWx5x5x5
Bulgarian Split Squat = 30#x5x5x5
Trap-bar Deadlift = 285#x5x5x5
Book Press (4 fingers) = 60#x5x5x5

For the past week I have been experiencing pain and tightness between my shoulder blades on the medial aspect of my right side. There is also pain whenever I rotate my head to the right and extend my neck back, localized to a position roughly equal to that of the insertion point of the sternocleidomastoid and the superior origin of the trapezius. I have been massaging and foam rolling systematically as often as I can in an attempt to relieve the pain.

If you have any experience with these symptoms, please feel free to message me for details. Or leave a comment here on the blog.