button_pause_01I’ve now completed 47 days from my hybrid schedule and I’m taking a break.

My Austrian hut to hut hiking tour begins in less than a week and I need to rest my knees as much as possible before we begin. Sometime last week I tweaked my left knee. Probably playing tennis. It’s a very minor thing down here on the ground. But it could become unhappy up in the mountains with a pack. So, I’m resting.

I was planning on doing this anyway, just running through daily iterations of the Tai Cheng Neural Reboot 4 the week prior to departure. It’s a great program for getting the kinks out of my system.

This summer has progressed with decent results playing mixed doubles tennis, fast hiking in the nearby park and, of course, this hybrid. It’s been fun to re-visit these P90X2 routines. Although, I’d forgotten how overrun the workouts are with product endorsements. Especially coming off the spartan–just the workout–Skogg kettlebell series, the relentless hawking of Beachbody accessories and recovery formulas and so forth is just grating.

And some of my earlier criticisms still ring true. In particular, some of the workouts are too hectic with the frenetic switching from med balls to foam roller to stability balls and so on. Don’t get me wrong. These are all beneficial tools. There’s just too much diversity crammed into some of the workouts. I feel I’m spending too much time managing all the gear, rather than focusing on the actual work. Minor quibbles, really, as the routines clearly produce positive results.

Anyway, I’ll be ratio silent for a while as I’m off to the mountains.

Hoping for good weather and a successful tour.

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Finding My Legs

Berliner Hütte in the Zillertaler Alpen

Berliner Hütte in the Zillertaler Alpen

As summer advances, so does my progress on this Hybrid regimen. I’m now 33 days in and enjoying a recovery week. It’s been exactly two years since I’ve done P90X2 and hour long workouts. And it’s been a challenging change of mindset to push through those added minutes. So far, though, I am pleased with the format of the schedule I put together. It has a good deal of variety which keeps it fresh and interesting and often difficult. For instance, a “Level 4″ Skogg kettlebell workout once a week is much more difficult than doing it three times per week.

In addition to the workouts, I’ve been playing some mixed doubles tennis. But I have refrained from singles play this summer because in July I’m going on an extended hut to hut tour in Austria with my son. With singles tennis there is a fairly high probability I’ll twist or tweak or blister an ankle, a knee, or foot. Better not to risk injury to maximize the chances for a successful tour in the Alps.

In 2013, I enjoyed a wonderful hut to hut tour in Pitztal. This summer, we’ll be a couple of valleys over to the East, trekking along the Berliner Höhenweg/Zillertaler Runde. It’s an 8 day, 7 night hut tour high in the Zillertaler Alps. In preparation for the hut to hut, I’ve added in fast walking to my routine. I’ve been doing two weekly 5.5 mile fast hikes in nearby Jones Bridge Park. I can’t over emphasize how helpful this has been to regain my legs and footing. I’m in pretty good shape already from my persistent workout regimens, but there is no substitute for actually going out and hiking for preparation for hiking and backpacking. All the walking is helping. My strides are getting longer and my feet are landing with more agility. Confidence in one’s legs is a great comfort once you find yourself at elevation in an alpine environment.

This past weekend, I again had the great opportunity to go on an extended 12 mile hike with my son and some Eagle Scout friends from my Boy Scout Troop. They’re now either graduated or on the cusp of graduating from their respective undergrad studies. We hiked up in the Springer Mountain area (as in 2013) at the beginning of the Appalachian  and Benton MacKaye Trails. The exact hike we did is now beautifully mapped and named the Trout Adventure Trail.

We enjoyed perfect weather and some bore the bitter irony of being Georgia Tech students/grads getting stung by yellow jackets. And some, like me, were stung just by association.

Aroon, Derrick, Blake, Daniel & Benny atop Springer Mountain, AT mile 0.0

Aroon, Derrick, Blake, Daniel & Benny atop Springer Mountain, AT mile 0.0


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I Am a River

Anyone who knows me knows I love hiking and the mountains. What’s harder to explain is the “why” behind my passion. I’ve been reading Nietzsche of late and some of the themes and the styling struck a chord with me. And so I was inspired to try to use Nietzsche as the vehicle for expressing my “why.”

I Am a River

I am a river
I fall, I fall
Ever falling to the sea—my victory.

I am a river
I fall, I fall
And in my falling, I overcome.

I am ice
Cold and blue
Heavy with sleep, I lay atop mountains
Yet how can I sleep?
It is not my nature
I am a river and so I must flow
I must fall down the mountains
And with the dawn, I awake
I overcome myself and flow
And in my overcoming, I break mountains.

The mountains fear me
They turn to dust beneath me
I break the mountains as I fall
I laugh as I fall at the vanity of the mountains
I fall, relentless, down the mountains
And in my falling I overcome myself and the rock beneath me.

And so, I consume the mountain
I eat it whole, until rock is river
Unsated, I melt, I
Drip, drip, drip
Until my cold, steel ice is overcome
My waters breaking
My torrent falling
Falling, raging.

Behold, my terrible Truth:
I am a river!
Falling, ever falling
I feed you, my fishes sustain you
My waters flow through you
I create you
I destroy you.

I am a river
I live, I live
I’ll not be dammed for my living
I will not be denied of my virtue
I am no lake, no stagnant, fetid pond
I am alive.

Woe to any who deny my nature
Woe to the deniers!
I shall overcome myself—and you—falling over my banks
I will murder you with my deluge.

And as I fall on to Truth
I leave fertile soil
And my revelation shall feed you
As I overcome you
I fall to my nature.

For I am a river, ever falling
I fall
Blessing and birthing
Overcoming and destroying
Falling, falling
As I must to the sea—my victory.

~ Albert Bodamer
June 1, 2015


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Round 14: A New Hybrid

P90X_X2_Round-14Before my kettlebell infatuation was consummated, I went through the effort to create a 90 day, P90X2 / X3 Hybrid. I enjoyed and benefited from both those programs in the past, so I wanted to continue to reap those rewards, but with the added variety a hybrid offers.

But that hybrid calendar was set aside as I courted the kettlebell. And with all that swinging, I grew to really enjoy the program, the instructor–Michael Skogg–and the benefits that come just from doing something new and different.

After completing my kettlebell round and the successful singles season that went with it, I was keen to keep the kettlebell in my arsenal. So I revisited my X2/X3 Hybrid calendar and inserted a kettlebell routine into the beginning of each week. Doing so extends my 90 day calendar to 111 days, but this ain’t no big thing because I’m psychologically past the 90 day paradigm at this point.

Typically, I take two to three weeks off between rounds. But this time, I was getting antsy so I kicked off this round on May 6th. I was getting antsy because I know summer always brings more travel into my schedule and my 111 day calendar will surely be extended.

My first week was interrupted by a trip to Alaska, although I did manage to get a nice 3 1/2 hour walk in up Mineral Creek in Valdez one evening after work.

2015-05-12 16.42.52

Looking North up Mineral Creek. Valdez, Alaska

It was nice to have the chance to stretch my legs. This time of year, it stays light well into the night.

Today, I started my second week with another kettlebell routine. Both routines so far have been from my new Skogg at Home, Phase 1 DVD. Again, variety is the theme of this round, I suppose. It’s new, and different. Both clocked in at around 30 minutes.

It’s funny. Just re-introducing P90X3 back into my life this past week has left me sore as hell: in the abs and the shoulders from throwing around that 12 lb med ball in the CVX routine. This just reinforces my decision to proceed as planned. It’s clearly needed.

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Skogg System Kettlebell: Complete.

kettlebell-smileyToday I completed my latest workout round swinging my kettlebells through Skogg’s Ladders, level 4 workout.

With breaks for tennis, it took me 102 days to complete the 84 day calendar. Not a problem. I was working hard on those tennis days and doing extra yoga sessions to keep limber. And, I’m injury free!

The final three weeks of the Skogg System calendar had me at Level 4. Level 4 continues to add time and reps to the various workouts in the DVD set. As expected, adding that time and those reps initially made Level 4 very challenging. But fairly quickly–about half way through those final 3 weeks–I started imagining that I could soon increase my weights. When I began Level 4, I was using the 12 kg bell on all the routines.

The question was: how do I safely increase the weight? Go back to level 2 or 3 with the higher weight? I posted the question on Skogg’s facebook page, and was advised to stay at Level 4, increase the weight, but go back to the lower weight bell in the routine as I run out of gas. I followed this advice, with good success in my final three workouts: Roots, Intervals and Ladders.

Having completed this DVD set, I can report that I thoroughly enjoy the workouts and I am noticeably stronger everywhere. I’ve also clearly gained muscle mass in my thighs, butt, chest and arms. I think the kettlebell compliments tennis well, building both strength and endurance. And speed wasn’t compromised moving around the court.

So my decision to mix things up and try something new proved beneficial. I like Skogg’s approach and demeanor, so I purchased another of his DVDs: Skogg at Home, Phase 1.

Whatever I wind up doing next, kettlebells will figure into the plan.

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Back in the Swing

Boy swingingNow that we’ve had a few days in a row of warm temperatures, I feel I can officially announce that winter has finally released its icy grip on Atlanta.

All this cold, rainy weather we’ve been having this year has made scheduling tennis matches challenging. Consequentially, my singles and doubles matches got all clumped up into a very busy week. Because of all the tennis, I took a break from the kettlebelling. Singles tennis can be taxing enough. One of my matches–which I lost–went 3 sets and just shy of 3 hours. I did insert lots of yoga into my hiatus, though. Yoga is increasingly crucial for me to ensure I can stay limber and avoid injury.

It turned out to be a good singles season for me. I placed first in my division. Now, it’s on to the playoffs. More important than the winning, though, is that I played without injury and ended the season with all 10 toenails intact. My tennis elbow has not returned. The tendon is a bit tight the next day, but I would not characterize this as an “issue.”

Also, I have to think that all this kettlebell swinging will help because my forearms and wrists are already noticeably stronger. I started back up promptly after completing the regular singles season.

I’m now done with week 9 and on to the remaining 3 weeks and LEVEL 4. One of the things I like about kettlebells is that you can’t cheat. When swinging that bell, all muscles are firing, unlike when you do an isolated exercise and you can knowingly or unknowingly favor a strength over a weakness and not realize the intended benefit of the exercise.


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Heels Over Head

headstand_snoopyWeek 7 of the Skogg Kettlebell System upped the ante to “Level 3″ and brought with it yet another milestone.

The increased reps of level 3 had me somewhat nervous so I was surprised to find that in the Ladders and Flow routines I was able to keep up with the video during the first half of both. For the second half of each, I just paused the DVD and completed at my own pace. I was pleased that I could do all the reps and it gave me confidence that I should be able to complete this program up to the final Level 4 when asked to do so.

But while getting to Level 3 is a source of satisfaction to me, it doesn’t rise to the level of being a “milestone.”

So what’s the big event?

It came during one of my many yoga sessions I have for my stretch days. When it came time to do the crow pose, I opted instead to do a headstand. No big deal, I guess, except I hadn’t done a headstand since maybe the fifth grade. And I don’t know exactly what motivated me to try it. It kind of just popped in my head as a natural move to compliment crow, which has gotten very easy and routine for me. Well, I was surprised to find I could in fact do a headstand. And I actually think the kettlebell work helped give me the confidence to try, since good core stability was certainly involved in pulling off the move.

I also played and won my second singles tennis match of the season. Again, I felt strong with excellent endurance. Again, (since I won) Skogg Kettlebell gets full credit.

On to week 8.

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Kettlebell Halfway

Russian_stamps_no_534_—_Dumb-bell_liftingWith today’s yoga, I completed week 6 of the Skogg Kettlebell System. This marks the halfway point of the program.

Throughout the week, I performed the scheduled “level 2″ workouts. They are challenging, but not nearly as much as a couple of weeks ago. So, I suppose it’s fitting that with week 7 comes the “level 3″ workouts.

Over the past weekend, I was able to sneak in a singles tennis match between all the cold, rainy weather we’ve been having. It was an agreeable temperature, in the 50’s. I easily won the match. And my play was pretty good. More importantly, I played without any tennis elbow issues. The arm felt good, strong. Overall, I felt I was in good condition: solid. This, of course, was all due to the Skogg Kettlebell System and all the yoga I’ve been doing.

Had I lost, no fear, I would have been as quick to blame the kettlebells and yoga.

So far, I’ve managed to swing the kettlebell without dropping it on my foot, smashing my kneecap, or having it fly out of my hand, mid-swing, into the TV set. I make these statements with a combination of pride and relief. There have even been moments where my movements were almost fluid.

So, as my reward, I graduate to “level 3″ this coming week. This seemed quite impossible a few weeks ago. Now I’m actually looking forward to the challenge.

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Kettlebell: Week 5 & Flow

flowWeek 5 of the Skogg System Kettlebell workout is now done. In week 5, we are introduced to the fourth and final DVD which is called: Flow.

The Flow workout incorporates all 6 moves, in sequence first on the left side, then the right. For level 1, we begin with a single rep of each move and work up to three reps before going back down from three to two to one rep.

Once again, because this was my first time with this workout, I had trouble keeping up. So I just paused the DVD as necessary to complete the sequences. I expect my next attempt at Flow will go smoother.

We’re also introduced to a new warm up. This warm up incorporates dive bombers, which I’ve always hated. I dislike them because I’m not good at them. This, I know, means I need to do them to focus on the weakness. It’s just that I have so many weaknesses, sometimes it seems I never get to do anything I actually enjoy.

The next week 6 keeps me at level 2 for all the routines. This should allow the additional practice and development I’ll need to start introducing some of the level 3 routines in week 7. Sitting here at my keyboard, that sounds do-able.

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Kettlebell: I Walk the Line

frostWith today’s yoga, I’ll have completed week 4 of the Skogg Kettlebell System workout regimen.

In some respects it was a good week, in others, not so much.

The prior weekend’s backpacking went well. That is, until mile 5.5 where I rolled my ankle stepping off a log putting the full weight of my pack on it as I stumbled. The final 3.5 miles to camp that day were painful and slow. No permanent damage. It only hurt when I used it. The big bummer, really was that singles tennis started again this week and I had to defer play, waiting for this to heal up. I played some mixed doubles yesterday and proved that I can move aggressively at this point even though it’s not yet fully healed.

With week 4 of the Skogg System, I was introduced to the Ladders routine. Ladders incorporates the same six moves, this time in sequence, on your left side then your right.  You start with one rep of each move, left side, right side, rest, then two reps, rest, three, three, two, and one.

As with any new routine, even though these are all the same moves, adding variety to the sequence messed me up. I couldn’t keep up. I even grazed the inside of my left knee with a swinging kettlebell. That caught my attention. In fairness, I think it’s not entirely my fault. In this DVD, Michael Skogg says during the rest, after completing the first single-rep sequence, that the breaks will get longer as the reps in each sequence increase. Not only is this not the case, as the routine progresses, the promised breaks actually never happen at all. This is a mistake in the production of the Ladders routine. When swinging a kettlebell, it’s highly inconvenient to stop and repeatedly hit pause. So I’ve dealt with this going forward by simply hitting pause after the first sequence and performing the remaining moves on my own at my own pace. I then re-fire the DVD for the cool down stretch.

After Ladders, I looked at the next scheduled sessions and saw that Roots 2 was scheduled three times in a row, followed by Ladders 2. As I was unhappy with my first go at Ladders, I didn’t want my next attempt to be at Level 2. So I replaced one of the Roots 2 workouts with another round of Ladders 1. This was a good decision. It went much better the second time around.

I’m getting stronger. During my last Roots 2 routine, I was using the 16 kg kettlebell for the first 4 moves and the 12er for the final 2. That was very encouraging. Soon, I’ll need to start shopping for a heavier bell.

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