Burbathlon and Matrix Workout Remixed

Remix (Broader Context): A remix may also refer to a non-linear re-interpretation of a given work or media other than audio. Such as a hybridizing process combining fragments of various works (from Wikipedia).

Whenever I go out to do a Burbathlon, I have to admit I usually improvise.  I have a few bags of tricks that I use with park benches, picnic tables and playground equipment, and the exercises number more than the slots I find to do them in, so no two Burbathlons are alike.  Still, variety is the spice of life, and Instagram has been great for finding new exercises to ‘Remix’ my workouts.  To wit,

The horizontal pull-up from Shauna Harrison.


Handstands like Running Rachel:

Box Jumps like Electra-Fi:

Matrix Workouts

I’ve also been remixing these (You do remember Matrix Workouts don’t you? Try those links if not).  The one sentence refresh: a workout comprised of exercises organized by muscle/movement groups (push, legs, pull) in the columns, and priorities (core/balance, power, endurance) in the rows.  I’d always noticed the overlap between exercises that help build core strength and balance while hitting a particular muscle group and those that build endurance in the same group, but I’ve decided to stop worrying about the dividing lines between the two. 

Here’s how I structured the latest incarnation:

Push (shoulder/chest)
Pull (Back/Biceps)
Handstand hold (max time) – against a wall
Rolling Pistol Squats
Plank Rows – 1 minute
Incline Chest Press (dumbbells)
Seated Cable Row
Push-ups – 1 minute
Jump lunges/split squats
Negative Phase Pull-ups

  • Handstands are making an appearance here too.  My biggest weakness is always anything with overhead work, so by sticking to bodyweight stuff like this, I hope to become stronger without compounding any problems.  Against a wall I find I can hold it less than a minute so far.
  • Pistol Squats are the ultimate one-legged squat and great for building a runner’s strength – I just can’t do a full range of motion on them though.  There’s lots of ways to scale them: holding on to something, reducing the range a little with a box under your butt, using a Swiss ball to do them against a wall).

I had the idea to use the latter half of a technique that practioners of Shorinji-Kan Jiu-Jitsu called a ‘Judo Roll’ (N.B. not an roll that would be used by someone who does Judo).  It’s a shoulder roll where one heel gets planted and you rise up into a fighting stance, and that rise has some similarity to a pistol squat – I apologize for not being able to find a video.  The momentum for the roll makes getting up from the bottom a little easier – in theory.  I started on my back and rolled backwards up to my shoulder and tried to complete the latter half, but I was only able to rise all the way up using a bar and occasionally touching a wall for balance; and even then I could only get 5 reps per leg.  I still believe that this exercise can pay dividends to strength and balance – especially for runners, so I want to keep working on it.

  • Plank rows – I’ve used these before… a.k,.a Renegade Rows.
  • Incline Chest Press with dumbbells – I struggle with any kind of overhead press due to shoulder stability issues.  This lets me approach that functionality in a controlled fashion.  When I think about it, what does a classic bench press simulate? Not too many situations where I have to lift things while lying flat on my back… this is more like it.
  • Deadlifts – You could argue that these don’t belong strictly under the leg category, but the first time I started incorporating them in workouts, I felt it in my hamstrings most the next day.

  • Seated Cable Row – this breaks my ‘No Machines’ rule and isn’t very functional, but in the Power row/category, I do want a little more targeting of my latissimus dorsi_and trapezius  muscles for now.
  • Push-ups – doing them for 1 minute straight.
  • Jump Lunges – still struggling to get 1 minute’s worth straight through.
  • Negative Phase Pull-ups – I can only do about 1.5 pull-ups, so making a workout out of that seems pointless, but by jumping/climbing to the top of the movement and lowering myself as slowly as possible, I can get more reps out and help my muscular endurance.  This is functional and makes up for the seated cable row.
After I get through a circuit or two of the 3×3 matrix, I’ve been adding a little capper or two that I find and haven’t been able to fit in otherwise like Shauna Harrison’s (her again?) one-legged jumping squat …

or Trainer Davey’s Pike-Jack Push-up

I need to wrap up this post… I haven’t had a workout in 2-3 days, and I’m going out for another Burbathlon… I might mix in Mom’s Little Running Buddy’s Focus for 5 while I’m out there.

When it comes to exercise, who do you beg, borrow and steal from lately?

A September of Family Races Part 3: Shark Boy’s Second Duathlon

We closed off our September of Family Races with the Family Fun Fit Beaches Best KOS Duathlon for Shark Boy (with me acting as coach and chaperone).  We had a lot of fun doing this event last year, and for days afterwards, he was asking when he could do a ‘triaflon’ again (still working on swimming, and apparently the distinction between ‘tri-’ and ‘du-’).  The big step up this year was that he was riding a real bike rather than a glider; in fact, someone saw him riding his bike with skill that they referred to as ‘Amazing’ which happens to be the adjective used to describe Spider-Man, who adorns both his bike and helmet.

The race was to start at 8:30 AM.  Two bits of bad news this year were that 1.) it was pouring rain on Saturday and 2.) the Gardiner Expressway was closed.  The former meant getting wet, and the latter meant spending a lot of time in traffic, even that early in the morning.  We arrived with enough time to spare for race kit pickup, pinning the bib onto the jacket, and setting up the bike in the transition area as well as strap on the timing chip.  The event is sanctioned by Triathlon Canada, and though it’s a fun/kids event, it’s nice to see that they want the rules of transition (i.e. no riding your bike in transition area, helmets on before taking the bike) enforced, pay attention to safety (more in a bit), and start on time.  

The 3-5 age group was split into two heats/waves to avoid crowding on the trail and the first heat started at 8:30 sharp.  Spectators were ushered off the racecourse and  immediate vicinity well before the start, but athletes and their guardians were able to hang out near the starting line; Shark Boy and I took turns holding an umbrella, so I got a little more wet than I strictly needed to.  They didn’t start the second wave until the bike course was completely clear – while this meant waiting in the rain (and who likes that?) I have to appreciate them making safety the highest priority.

Quick side note: before we got to race I saw the first athlete to cross the finish line and it was a little girl (in fact the overall fastest in kids aged 3-5). I don’t know when the sexist notions about getting ‘chicked’ start, but it’s clearly more of an adult-invented concept. For the kids, fastest is fastest, and parents with daughters should take note – get your girls to shoot for the moon in sports.

We got into position in the starting line, a little behind the very first row.  While I did want Shark Boy to run fast, I know I have a little trouble coaxing him to really let loose when the distractions of other kids racing are around, plus I didn’t want him to get winded too soon like during the 5 Peaks race. I ran ahead of him and coaxed him to follow me, and I think he did a great job of pacing himself and staying pretty focused. The first run leg was 50 meters, and we completed the loop, rounded the corner into transition and found the bike. Before the race I tried to show him where we had parked it, looking from the angle of the transition area entrance. He almost got on the bike right away, but not only did I catch him as he was throwing his leg over the bike, but so did a volunteer! We jogged the bike toward the mount line, but he still got on a few feet too early. Oh well.

Once he started pedalling, I was very glad I wore running shoes and track pants, because I needed to run full-tilt to keep up with him. He blazed by every kid we saw for the first half of the course which felt good in two ways: one, I was proud of him, two, it was nice seeing the other side of the coin on the bike course – normally I’m the one getting passed.

At the top of the biggest downhill on the course (not much of a hill, but enough for kids to pick up a lot of speed) I could see a little girl had fallen near the bottom which also was a turn to the left. Shark Boy judiciously applied the brake and handled the bike beautifully to avoid any further accident. Unfortunately, this put him neck-and-neck with another girl and for a few seconds there, I feared a Ben-Hur chariot race type scenario, with the two kids potentially side-swiping each other. I coaxed a little more ‘oomph’ from him on the pedals, and we pulled ahead. There was an uphill climb just before transition and I’m proud to say he went up it without getting off the bike… he just pushed those pedals and up he went!

He dismounted and jogged his bike back to its spot. I asked him if he wanted to keep the helmet on.
“UMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM…” The clock was still ticking so I took it off and we started the run. He’d been looking forward to hearing cheers (especially ‘WOOO’) all morning, so I’m betting this was his favourite part. The final leg was a loop of 100 m. I kept him motivated not only by cheering but reminding him that snacks awaited. I tried to run far enough ahead to snap a picture of him crossing the finish line, but I wasn’t fast enough. Luckily my wife was able to grab the shots you see with her phone – as for the blurriness, Blame It On the Rain.

Normally I wouldn’t let my kids drink Gatorade, but I was so proud I had to make an exception. We all snacked on cookies and crackers (some from the race, some that we had packed) and decided to head home – the rain wasn’t making us any more comfortable. We were pretty sure that Shark Boy wouldn’t get an award (make the top 3 podium), so we were happy getting the finisher’s medal, certificate and most importantly to him, lollipop (in the race kit). When we looked up the results online, we found he got 8th in kids 3-5 (5th place Boys).

I’m super proud of my eldest son, and for next year, I’m hoping we can get him in a full Triathlon (with swimming) while the Lightning Kid tackles this event or one like it if he can manage a glider bike by then.

A September of Family Races Part Twofer: 5 Peaks Trail Run & Terry Fox Run

The folks at 5 Peaks were nice enough to let me transfer my race entry for the cancelled Yeti Snowshoe race in February to a race much later in the season.  I picked the Heart Lake event (at the Heart Lake Conservation Area); this was the first year they had used this venue.

What turned out to be a beautiful day was a little tough to dress for, as the day started near single digit temperatures (in Celsius), but the sun ended up beating down to a degree that mid-way through the race I was wishing I had worn shorts.   More on my race later; first, we got both Shark Boy and the Lightning Kid to run the “Children’s Challenge” which was a 1 km fun run for the little ones which took place after a timed kids event (probably for slightly older children).

The boys are both #1!

The announcer explained the course and the parents held the kids back until it was time to ready, set, go!  I ran alongside Shark Boy to keep him motivated and running the best pace he could manage, and my wife ran with the Lightning Kid to keep him out of trouble.  The course went out under the start/finish arch, across a field for a bit, then down a big hill to a clearing they called ‘the bowl’, where we did a small loop and headed back the same way.

Shark Boy descends the hill into the bowl.

We’ve got a little more work to do about teaching Shark Boy how to pace himself for distance, and he’s a chip off the old block for not threatening the front runners for their podium positions, but he gave it a great effort and finished strong and out of breath and I couldn’t be prouder.

Shark Boy just before the finish line.

The Lightning Kid just before the finish line.

What can I say about the Lightning Kid? He got some help from his mom on the big hill, but I don’t think anyone had ever seen anyone that young and little finish a race like that, never mind with his gusto and enthusiasm.  We have Special Olympics aspirations for this one, but we’d also like him to attend as many sporting events for ‘typical’ kids as possible.

The brothers with their finishers’ medals.

There was about a half hour break between the end of the Children’s Challenge and the main race which was a Sport course (7.5 km) and an Enduro (15 km); the latter being two laps of the former.  Racers were asked to self seed themselves in waves, with the first wave being people who had a sincere chance of making top 3 overall.  From the numbers it was clear that some overestimated their abilities (or underestimated the competition), but the race announcers’ hinting and chiding had little effect on cutting down the size of that first wave.  In fact, with all the joking around I somehow got it into my head that there would only be two waves, and I would be fine in the back.  After the race was over, I chatted with a guy who was keeping a similar pace than me (and identified himself as more of a ‘hobby’ runner – like me – than a ‘serious’ runner – like most of the racers).  Luckily I stood at the back of the second wave so I wasn’t as big an impedance as I would have been in the front.

After the first 50 m, the trail narrowed significantly for big downhill drop and the race turned into standing in line at the movies.  We had been forewarned of this and everyone was good-natured about it – it was too soon to have any real effect on anyone’s race.  Once the trail opened up a little bit, I started getting passed and as I checked my heart rate on my Garmin, I could see I needed to slow down the pace a bit.  The thing about trail races is they don’t give your heart rate much of a break unless you’re willing to slow down to a walk.

There were some fun ‘obstacles’ like logs to jump over including one you had to climb or vault (a hop would not suffice) especially early on – I loved it, but I think they still kept it within sane ranges unlike these obstacle course races that are practically masochistic in nature.  I kept getting passed though, and I began to wonder if I was in dead last when I stopped seeing people behind me for a bit.  It happens to me a little on the bike in triathlon so I don’t stress out about it too much.  In fact, I had passed one or two people too.  I took a little video of the trail, if you’d like to get a feel for what the race was like.

I had noticed that the kilometre markers came earlier than my Garmin was claiming, so when 6 km was done, I decided I could try and risk it a little more and really started pushing the pace; driving my heart rate well north of 90% of max.  I passed 3 people who had a similar pace than me, but were making it look easier.  I had a feeling they could and would catch me again before the finish line… and that was when I encountered a bit of funny luck.

The trail veered left and suddenly we were basically facing a wall of dirt.  Imagine the steepest hill you could theoretically climb on foot.  I think the others just stopped and laughed and resigned themselves to walking up carefully.  I, on the other hand, have daily conversations with Shark Boy about Spider-Man, so I hustled up using hands and feet like the wall-crawler himself, and you know what? I wasn’t passed again before the end of the race, even though there was another gut-busting climb out of that same bowl we used in the Children’s Challenge.  I crossed the finish line with lungs burning in just under 45 minutes.  I had projected an hour to my wife – I think both the course was a little easier than the last time I did a trail race, and maybe I’m in a little better shape.

5 Peaks always has great post-race snacks including bagels, bananas, apples, orange wedges, chunks of power bar (I think), cookies and kettle corn.  The Vega tent also gave out free samples of plant-based recovery drink – I’m glad turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties, but it’s not something I’d normally put in a drink… They also have Kicking Horse coffee, but I’m never ready to drink coffee immediately after a race, and by the time I get ready, it’s all gone. One of the costs of being a back of the pack (14/18 in Men 30-39 which I qualify as for another 3 days) athlete I guess.

And that was our Saturday… on to Sunday!

We got the kids packed up to do the Terry Fox Run at West Deane Park after a pancake breakfast.  I knew I was going to treat the day as ‘active recovery’ – nothing too strenuous, just jogging.  Unfortunately, I found I had tweaked a weird muscle the day before.  I don’t know which muscle it is, but let’s just say I’m not willing to put ice there.  It was going to be a little more challenging than I thought!

The Terry Fox run is such a great event for families; there’s a bouncy castle, live music, a hot air balloon (that takes you only a little bit up and down, but still), fire engines for the kids to look at, a barbecue, and a great playground.  We were joined by my father-in-law and his wife.

They ended up taking the kids for the most part, while my wife and I did the run according to the planned route.  We did not break any speed records but proceeded north at a friendly pace while stopping to read Terry Fox quotes that were written in chalk on the path.

(I know that one’s not in chalk, I should have taken pics of the other ones as we encountered them).  The northern turn around point was only about 2 km out from the start, so I knew we’d end up with less than 5 km if we stopped at the start/finish line.  It turns out the kids and Opa and his wife had taken the southern arm of the route, so we went to meet them, but I confess we did a lot of walking as there was fatigue build up for both of us.

By the time we met them, I had gotten a bit of a second wind, and I wanted to burn off a little extra energy, so I went ahead with Shark Boy to finish the route at a run (with him on his bike). He had wanted to get off the bike and run, but I convinced him to stay on it since it was a little far for him.  Keeping up with him on a bike is speed work (as I learned in Germany), and we had fun racing each other.  Before next week I have to teach him that filling his bike with pretend gas isn’t a great idea during a race, though.  With only a few hundred metres left, I could hear the band, and I said I’d carry the bike and helmet so he could cross the finish line on foot.  He doesn’t know it, but he did a brick workout!  Bring on next week’s duathlon.  

We all met again later and the kids had some good playground time and snacks.  I’m really happy to make this an annual tradition and we even raised a little money for cancer research.

Because we are crazy and insatiable, the kids had swimming lessons that afternoon too.  Our family is what my friend the Pavement Runner calls “That Kind of Crazy“.

Did you grow up in a crazy active family?  If not, do you wish you had?

A September of Family Races Part 1: Levac Attack 2013

It was the day we had long been waiting for; now an annual tradition for the whole family – the 2013 Levac Attack!  We saw both the weather forecast and the sky itself, and managed to throw a bit of rain gear in along with our Chariot, a bike and helmet for Shark Boy, camera & tripod as well as a boom-box that would play the special “Levac Attack Playlist” I had put together the night before.  What we didn’t pack were dry clothes…

On the way to Brampton it was pretty clear that this would be a rainy day; no hope of sun peeking out or clearer skies anywhere in our future.  I pulled up to John and Lorna’s house to drop everybody off; luckily they have some big trees in their front yard in addition to the tent set up on the driveway so they could stay dry while I went and parked.  Of course, that meant I’d be putting the Chariot together in the rain, along with gathering together the rest of our gear.

Final registrations were done, and we got our fabulous Race t-shirts and bibs on.  It seemed like everybody was eager to get going (or at least get it over with!) and the door prizes were quickly drawn.  The horn sounded and they were off! Between setting up the stroller and herding 3 generations, we always start last, but I suppose that keeps us from having to get passed by everyone (though getting lapped is common on this course anyway).

I had tried to impress upon Shark Boy the importance of finishing the race you set out to do, and that I wanted to see him finish 2 complete laps (for 5.6 km) on his bike.  There is an even more important lesson for him though, and that’s to stick by your family and respect your elders.  Since his Omi was walking the course and it was pouring so hard, I don’t think they got the complete ‘Soft Taco’ course done, but I’m glad they stuck together.

Speaking of sticking together, in spite of her protests that she was in no shape to complete the 11.2 km ‘Hard Taco’ course (due to missed training runs), and also in spite of the miserable weather, my wife kept up the run for the entire four laps, and I couldn’t be more proud to cross the finish line with her at my side (and the Lightning Kid was in the Chariot too, of course!)

You can see some video of our race below.  Sorry about the raindrops on the lens, but, you know, the weather is out of my control.

I was surprised and pleased to see what the finisher’s “medal’ was…. something snazzy and useful, though I waited till I was home to take my modelling pic…
Sweet Visor…
The usual awesome post-race food included fajitas, hot dogs, but I was especially impressed by some of the desserts… one was very tasty, but I don’t know how to describe it… the other was a red velvet cookie with white chocolate chips.  Yum!

As an event, we raised close to $30,000 for Mount Sinai’s Joseph and Wolf Lebovic Health Complex for Women and Infants’ Health.  You can find out more about the cause and event at LevacAttack.com.

Fountain of Youth

Warning: This is going to be one of those navel-gazing posts that I always claim to dislike writing (and reading for that matter). Still, you guys are gluttons for punishment and I’ll bet you’re still reading.

In less than 3 weeks, I’m going to turn 40. Even though I don’t entirely want it to be, it’s a bit of a big deal, and turning into an even bigger deal the closer we get to it. I remember being 23 or 24 and I was at my first job out of university. I had a co-worker who I looked up to a little as a mentor who turned 30, and I asked him whether it worried or bothered him. He answered that he had a job he loved, a beautiful wife and baby girl, so everything was the way he wanted it in life, while he had friends who were living in their parents’ basements. I thought it was a very healthy attitude to have and resolved to try and confront my 30th with a similar one.

Flash-forward: six weeks before my 30th birthday, I got dumped, laid-off and I found out I had a stage 1 malignant melanoma in my leg. Having a good attitude about employment or relationships was tough, and I had my health – my very life, really, to think about. Still, I got through all that, and now, I have all that, especially the beautiful wife and family.

I guess I’m trying to take stock of where I’m at in a few other ways. A few years ago, there was a beer ad campaign where they welcomed twenty-somethings into the transition from undergraduate hi-jinks to the next phase (with more expensive beer): The Carlsberg Years. Well, even those are probably behind me, but I do find myself looking for little indulgences in the everyday, including better beer of course.

Somehow I’ve accumulated just enough vanity to start using some high-end skin care when I shave, and that in turn, has started getting me to expand skin-care in to almost a whole regimen. Besides their shaving gel, I have a cleanser, a moisturizer, exfoliant, eye-cream, and age/rejuvenating cream under my sink. I don’t have a real regimen for regular use, but I try to take care of my skin beyond protecting it from the sun and cursing pimples (yes, acne at 40 – pimples as stubborn as the man they belong to).

While my favourite thing to wear (and I often do) is still a hoodie and jeans, I have realized that one of the things that can make a person look old is an outdated and/or worn out wardrobe, so I try keep from clinging on to old favourites and bring in new clothes that are youthful in spirit without making me look too much like an arrested adolescent who doesn’t know what’s age-appropriate (there’s a What Not To Wear fan in my house). What’s more is that I have no patience for shopping. Even the one time in the morning I have to pull clothes almost feels like more than I’d like, so repeatedly trying on clothes is practically a punishment for me and when you tie in crowded stores and parking forget it! I’ve had some success with Frank & Oak and Hugh & Crye especially in shirts.

The Frank & Oak stuff fits well, but the Hugh & Crye deserves special mention since they do fits according to body type which is determined through multiple measurements. A fit is some combination of Short/Average/Tall versus Skinny/Slim/Athletic/Broad.   I even got one shirt done custom from Blank Label.

It’s not just the outside I find myself paying more attention to; I’ve been taking multi-vitamins (almost) regularly for a while now. I like to make sure I get not only all kinds of vitamins, but Omega-3s, chromium and zinc. After my experience with the Koge Vitamins Energy Pack, I recently ordered their Daily Essentials and I’m working my way through that container.

Still, the best way to try and live forever that I’ve found so far is triathlon. Every time I race, one or more of the following scenarios occurs:

  • I’ll start catching up on an athlete and start to feel good that I might over-take a peer or rival, when the body marked age on their calf reveals them to be in their sixties or seventies.
  • I’ll see a body in better shape than mine with firmer skin and tauter muscle, and when I want to chalk it up to the benefits of youth, I’ll see that number on the calf again, and find I’m actually dealing with someone my age or older.

Triathletes as a whole in my experience always look younger than they are. I said I was going to delve into more strength training and other more intense fitness activities in the post-season. That is not what I have done. Whether it’s post-race blues, work stress, dealing with a virus while simultaneously worrying about a procedure for the Lightning Kid, my motivation has be been close to nil. On the bright side, I’ve discovered that I can still run, even when I don’t think I really want to exert myself. It was so liberating. On my second of such runs this week, I discovered that I really like the band Japandroids, who I can remember reading about with a review that said something along the lines of “they remember what it’s like to be seventeen.” I swear their songs made me want to scream out loud (in a good way, of course).

 I don’t know what the future holds for me, but I fervently hope I’m still doing triathlons (or at least running) until the day I die. May Forty Be Sporty! 

Still time to Donate to the Levac Attack for 2013!  Click Here!